There was snow on the streets of Newtown, Connecticut yesterday. The skies were gray and the tree limbs, bare and forlorn. In contrast the photos of Newtown on December 14th, 2012 showed the sky to be brilliantly blue. The sun's light was thin, imbued with that golden edge it has during the long New England winters The rest of it, the true content of the photos, reflect the nightmare of that perfectly clear day.
The images were of heavily armed police roaming the grounds of Sandy Hook Elementary School--of panic stricken parents desperately searching for their children--of terrified students, most barely old enough to understand what had happened, being led from the school itself. They were the images of a uniquely American tragedy.
Yes, the sort of horror perpetrated by Adam Lanza that sunny winter day a year ago doesn't happen anywhere else in the industrialized world--at least not on the scale, or with the frequency it does here in the good old U.S. of A. This elephant is in our living room, not Australia's, the UK's, Japan's, or any other place else we so arrogantly call civilized.
The National Rifle Association tells us it isn't the guns. They claim each new massacre is a failure of the mental health care system. This despite numerous reports that say it is well nigh impossible to predict which emotionally disturbed person among us will trip over the edge into violence. Not to mention the reluctance of many families to admit one of their own is even mentally ill--ie, "Well, I knew Uncle Rupert owned a Bushmaster .223 and a one hundred round ammo clip, but I preferred to think of him as eccentric rather than bat shit crazy."
The terrible fact is a huge section of the American population has a gun fetish. It is downright sexual in nature. It manifested itself the moment large numbers of our ancestors landed on the shores of the continent. We used guns to kill the Native Americans and enslave African Americans. Now that we've run out of large numbers of Indians and slavery is nominally outlawed, we're using them on ourselves.
In America the gun is the Grand and Exalted Arbiter. It is, too many times, the first option and it is always the final solution.
Slate and @gun deaths ran a study this past year tracking media reports of killings related to gun use. In the year after Adam Lanza went on his deadly spree, 11,486 citizens of this nation were shot to death by guns. Slate, however, points out the figure is far short of the real number. It notes nearly 60% of all gun deaths are suicides and many of those are not reported by the media. Using CDC estimates, Slate believes the true number of American gun related deaths the past year is 33,373. To put it in perspective, Wikipedia's statistics show that during the three years of the Korean War, American combat deaths were 33,686.
The guns aren't going away. The NRA has made sure of that. They are so invested in the culture of firearms they won't be satisfied until every man, woman, and child in the country walks the streets packing a piece. They own congressmen and senators like the rest of us own cars. If one acts up they just trade him or her in on a new model, one they can better steer. To disagree with them is tantamount to treason. Their membership has all the wild eyed certainty of radical Islamic jihadists and Glock is the God they worship.
Yesterday in Newtown the bell of St. Rose of Lima church tolled 26 times in memory of the 20 babies and 6 teachers who were murdered a year ago.
The sad truth is it was tolling for us too.
Unfortunately, we were so busy practicing at the gun range, we failed to hear it.
sic vita est