Commentary

Saunders: How did this happen? And how do we go on?

bsaunders@newsobserver.comDecember 14, 2012 

The Mayan calendar missed by a week.

The calendar predicted that the world would end next Friday, Dec. 21. In a real sense, it ended Friday, when evil entered Sandy Hook Elementary School in Connecticut.

Doomsday descended upon Newtown, Conn., upon the parents and siblings and grandparents of 20 children who will never come home.

It descended upon our nation shortly after 9:40 a.m., while these children were presumably being taught the alphabet.

The deaths of the six adults who died at the school are not to be minimized, oh no. But by the time you reach a certain age, you are – unfortunately – inevitably familiar with a certain amount of evil. Or at least you know evil exists.

When you are 5, 6, 7, 8, 9 and 10 years old, though, evil should be and usually is unknown to you even as a concept. It should definitely be unknown to you as an armed gunman stalking the halls of your school building.

How do you explain?

Lord have mercy, but how do you explain to children that age, both the ones who were at the school and the ones around the nation who will hear about the tragedy, what happened Friday morning?

How do you explain to your daughter, once life returns to some semblance of normalcy, why the girl with the curly hair who sat beside her in the cafeteria every day will never come to school again? Or to your son why he will never again see the little boy who was so good at softball?

How, finally, do you explain to any child that, yes, it’s safe to get on the bus and go to school today?

Unprovoked violence en masse has visited our nation before. And each time, we get over it or at least move beyond it enough to function. Has there ever, though, been a crime in recent history this senseless, of this magnitude, with victims so innocent? I swear, it’s going to take some time to get over this one.

Misguided calls to arms

After the 2007 Virginia Tech shooting, in which a campus madman killed 32 people, some misguided individuals declared that the massacre would’ve been nipped in the bud had the students and teachers been armed.

After the Aurora, Colo., shooting earlier this year, the same nincompoops declared that had everyone in the theater had a weapon, that massacre, too, could’ve been stopped before 12 people were killed. (Nevermind that a chaotic, darkened theater is just about the last place you want a bunch of armed cowboys, no matter how well-intentioned.)

Will those same people now claim that Friday’s massacre could have been averted had the kindergarten teachers been strapped?

President Obama ordered the nation’s flags lowered to half-staff. That’s good. In addition to lowering the flag, though, he must raise his voice against the ease with which weapons of mass death are obtained. So should the rest of us.

Relax, guys. (You know who you are.) Nobody’s going to come and try to take your beloved guns or even propose legislation to do so. At a news conference hours after the apocalypse visited Connecticut, President Obama’s spokesman, Jay Carney, responded to a question about whether the president would try to target automatic or semi-automatic weapons.

“There is a day for discussion for such matters; today is not that day,” Carney responded.

He’s right. Today is a day to grieve. And to ask, “What in the hell is wrong with us?”

bsaunders@newsobserver.com or 919-836-2811

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