Newtown, Anytown USA

Twenty children and seven adults kids gunned down by a developmentally disabled kid who acquired access to his mom’s legally purchased assault weapons. He had hundreds of rounds on him so, in addition to acts of heroism on the part of many teachers and students, the other person we have to thank for the fact that more people didn’t die is the shooter himself. Decided to take himself down before his ability to murder was spent. People are upset (and yes, I agree with all the folks that point out that poor black and brown kids die as a result of gun violence all the time, but let’s stay on point).

I agree with all the calls for doing a better job recognizing and treating the mentally ill and developmentally disabled. I think the most poignant call to action came from the mother of one such child:

In China they do an absolutely horrible job identifying and helping the mentally ill. As a result, violent crime perpetuated by mentally ill people is not an uncommon occurrence in the country. During our year in China, I took note of the string of violent attacks on school children in the country. Random attacks of this sort seem to occur with shocking regularity. In response to the violence, the kindergarten at my children’s school implemented heightened safety procedures. There was even a violent attack on school children in China on Friday, the same day as the Sandy Hook massacre. As you can read here, an armed man attacked an injured 22 children and one adult as children were arriving at school. Of the 23 victims, 2 were badly injured.

So, they have violent, troubled people in China, too. They have them everywhere. Although no one died in this particular attack, children sometimes do die at the hands of China’s knife-wielding crazies. But, fewer children die because, and each and every one of you knows this, knives just don’t kill as quickly or as efficiently as semi-automatic weapons that can unload a full magazine in seconds. Using ammunition that was designed to cause the greatest possible damage to the bodies it entered and rigging his weapons for maximum killing efficiency, in about ten minutes the shooter entered the school, killed 26 people, and injured 2 others before taking his own life.

And still there are people, lots of people, calling for more guns. Saying that, if the teachers had been packing, they would have saved lives. These people say that gun control leads to more killing, that we Americans shouldn’t wait around idly in pools of blood in hopes that law enforcement can deliver us from slaughter. We need to engage in an arms race contested at the individual level. Keepin’ up with the Joneses wild west style.

I have only one response, and please read the strong language as an indicator of the depth of my feelings: Fuck you.

I still haven’t had the conversation with my children. I know that in school they have “lock down” drills. In-event-of-school-massacre drills were not part of my childhood, but now they are routine. Jie-jie says they have to sit quietly in the corner. They turn out the lights. Pull the shades. Lock the doors. The teacher gives them gum to keep their mouths from talking. Jie-jie likes getting gum at school. I don’t believe they won’t see the connection, my children, between the attack they prepare for, and the one visited on 6 and 7 year olds (their contemporaries) at another school just a few hours away.

And I wonder if I should also talk to them about preparing. Better safe than sorry. When we arrive in a new setting, should I point out emergency exits and good hiding spots so they get in the habit of preparing for contingencies? Or should I take the stoic approach that my mother took in the face of my paralyzing childhood fear of nuclear war: “That day will come or it won’t. Just be the best person you can be every day.”

I have read the articles about what I am supposed to say to my children – that their parents, their teachers, their principal, their community, their country are all doing everything we can to keep them safe. I would love to tell them this, only I don’t lie to my children. In fact, based on this article, I suspect that I have acted against their best interests in choosing to be here instead of Sweden, Hong Kong and Singapore – all countries where we have the option to be. There is a positive relationship between the availability of guns and crime. America is a violent country. Our mental health system is a shambles. During the dark years of the Bush administration, our paltry assault weapons ban expired. Although the left says they want significant gun regulation, people are apparently too busy arguing about the moral dangers of “socialized” national health care and the sanctity of the hypothetical lives of unwanted embryos.

Like I said, Fuck you.

Last spring my children, whose school chums in Sweden are refugees from Iraq, came home from school asking what we would do if war came to our home like it came to Lale and Hnone in Iraq – bombs and guns. We said that we were fortunate to be in a place where we were mostly safe from war (Yes I know those were mostly American guns and bombs, but let’s stay on point). We told them if war came, we would leave and go somewhere safe.

My seven-year-old is a worrier and a smart cookie. She will be anxious. I will minimize the situation, I will emphasize that American schools are, statistically speaking, safe places. She will tell me she is afraid, and she will ask to go back to Sweden. There is no war there. It is better there, she will say. It is safer.

And she will be right. More right than she knows. What do I say then?

This entry was posted in Culture Shock, In Vermont, Musings, Schooling and tagged , , . Bookmark the permalink.

3 Responses to Newtown, Anytown USA

  1. meghan says:

    Very nice, Andrea. I don’t envy you the task of talking to the girls about this, or, really having that nagging worry in your head. I saw bowling for Columbine when I still thought children would be part of my future. I’d never actually seen the security footage because I can’t stomach the endless reportage on horrible events and I ended up in tears announcing that my children would be home schooled.

    So many of the arguments I this debate would be laughable if it wasn’t so important. Pro-gun positions, particularly more-gun stances lean so heavily on failed analogies and bizarre, labyrinthine doomsday a scenarios that I can’t imagine how these people keep a straight face.

    Good luck to you and to all of us who have faith in and passion for our cultural evolution.

  2. Justin Farrar says:

    What would have been the best way to protect those kids that day? Don’t say ban guns because even if they were it wouldn’t make a dent in the availability of guns when there are estimated to be over 300 million guns in America. If you had been at the school that day what would you have done? If you knew how to use a gun and had one on your person you could have saved a lot of lives. In another post you said carrying a gun wouldn’t make you feel safer. How can you say that if you dont own a gun and haven’t carried one? Guns are used everyday in self defense. Now don’t say if there weren’t guns you wouldn’t need them for self defense because more violent crimes are committed with hands and feet than with guns. Before you can take such a hard lined stance against guns you need to learn how to use one, carry one everyday, and look at all of the facts rather than emotions. Thank you for your time! Justin Farrar

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