Extreme apologies for the diversion from gymnastics. There are number of gymnastics clubs and YMCAs in the Newtown Connecticut area. All the coaches and owners at these gyms are great people and the lives of their clients have been forever changed.
It was so painful, you could not watch.
It was so heartbreaking, you could not listen.
The president wiped away tears, but what parent didn’t, as we stared at the television screen and saw the looks on the faces of the children who got away?
On this horrific Friday, we went to an awful place even this blood-soaked society has never been. And what you wonder is how we ever find our way back. When enough will finally be enough, or if we are too far gone to know.
It was all there again; senseless carnage in a culture that lives and dies with violence. A culture that is entertained by it, profits from it, talks it, glorifies it, swims in it. And every so often, when the day is bad enough, gets shocked and sickened by it.
Virginia Tech and Colorado. Wisconsin and Connecticut. On and on and on. Bullet after bullet, body after body.
Much of the discussion in response to all the dead kindergartners in Newtown, Conn., will focus on guns, and rightfully so. If little girls gunned down at their desks don’t force the issue, what will?
But it is so much more. What is it about us, that so many pull triggers? This was the act of a disturbed man, but why so many acts, and why so many killers? No new gun control law can answer that.
The psychologists will eventually tell us their theories about this individual and why he picked up weapons one morning and decided to shoot 5-year-olds. If only it was as simple as one madman. Only as infrequent as one grim Friday.
But it’s not. You wonder if we have created too fertile a breeding ground for violence. You wonder why the predominant emotion among so many of us so often is rage.
And then you look around, and the way we communicate with one another.
You look at our talk shows that once fostered thoughtful discussion and meaningful debate. Now they value one word only. Attack. Attack. Attack. The more vicious the better, because it sells.
You look at our Internet, and its vast promise of an interchange of ideas. And then see how that promise has been perverted, to where assault is made all the easier by anonymity, and even the media no longer has use for beauty or perspective, because scandal and conflict and heated rhetoric get so many more computer hits.
You look at our entertainment, and note the high body count, where we are numb to bloodshed and blind to its consequences. Where the winner is often the one who kills best.
I look at my own pitifully trivial world of sport. Where proposals for safer football rules are hooted down, because the game might be less violent, and the crowds might stay away. Where the fig is asking gymnasts to risk it all for a medal.
I look at some of the mail I get. Abusive, brutal language from those furious about an article I wrote or didn’t write. If gymnastics provokes such fury, one can only imagine what the real world must do.
If rage and rancor are so much a part of our daily lives, it should not be a shock that gunfire breaks out. It has happened so often, that now when the first reports come, we ask the same questions, dulled as we are by mayhem.
Where? How many? How young?
What terrible questions for a society to have to keep asking itself.
No, our violence-rich culture does not make murderers of us all. But cigarettes don’t give everyone lung cancer. That does not make them non-lethal.
The haunting memory from Friday will be of young voices, shrieking in fear. Of parents thrust into their worst nightmare. Of Christmas stockings that will never be filled.
Have we finally had enough? It must not start with just gun control. It must start with us. We’ve surrendered common civility because something else makes more money, or gets more attention. The result? Many simply live angrier lives.
But a few pick up guns, and go off to kill children who still believed in Santa Claus.