Friday, December 14, 2012

Sandy Hook Shooting Proves There Are Such Things As Monsters

Children Evacuated from School @ABCNews

Friday - Entry 18:

Today America's children learned that there really are such things as monsters. I had just pulled away from my daughter's elementary school when I turned on the radio and heard the news about Newtown, Connecticut. My heart simply dropped, leaving a numb hole in its place.

The assembly I attended was for the NOVA awards, a program to discourage drug use and, ironically, violence. It has replaced the DARE program here in Utah. It stands for Nurturing Opportunities Values Accountability. There were several policemen there to give out the awards to the happy, excited children. My daughter was thrilled to see me, but then even more thrilled to have her name called and be given a certificate. She stood high on the stage, beaming at the crowd in her excitement, and shivering with excitement as she crumpled her certificate ever so slightly.

I was apparently the only parent to show up with a camera for my girl's class, so the assembly waited while I snapped some pictures for the teacher who was away. That would obviously be a good time to accidentally have the camera on movie setting, thus delaying the process in front of hundreds of people. Oh, the parents and teachers all had a chuckle. I cheekily bowed when I finished to a smattering of applause.

But as I looked out over that crowd of smiling children and parents, I never once thought to pull an automatic rifle out and senselessly shoot them all. In fact, the wholesome, normal-ness of my morning clashed jarringly with the news that greeted me as I pulled out of the elementary school's parking lot.

Many people are grappling right now with the horror of what happened this morning. Info is still sparse; some of it wrong. The media had already identified two different people online as the shooter, both of which were still alive, before it was lunch time here in Utah. One thing we do know is that 18 children from 5–10 years old died in their classrooms, as well as 6 adults, likely teachers. Also, the shooter died at the school from a self-inflicted wound. You'd think the media would check for that wee little detail before rushing to press and outing living namesakes.

Twitter flowed with tears and heartfelt notes of compassion and grief. But soon it became filled with railing accusations, many demanding greater gun laws, as if gun control would drive monsters out from under the beds. On the other side, many suggested that if the teachers had been carrying guns, this wouldn't have happened. I'm not convinced that particular solution would be the best one. Sometimes it has worked, and sometimes it hasn't. It depends on the person holding the gun, doesn't it? However, restrict guns, and the monsters will obtain them illegally. Take away guns entirely, and monsters will target buses with their trucks.

Or the monsters could learn from the Weather Underground, Unabomber, IRA & Hamas, and build bombs.

The problem is that monsters like to scare us, and they don't accomplish that by following the rules. In order to stop them, we have to give up more and more of our freedoms. In point of fact, our freedom is an illusion easily rendered asunder by monsters. Yet, to exchange freedom and its risks for a police state with its supposed safety is to me too extreme a choice. Consider the TSA's intrusion into our lives now in response to 9/11. Do we feel safer? Do they make the world a better place? Or just more complicated with less freedom?

Author Brad Thor and I had a short discussion on Twitter about this subject this morning. He seemed to feel something needed to be done in the schools to protect the children. Brad is a pro-gun guy, so his solution, as far as I could guess since he cut off our conversation, seemed to be to tighten security in schools. Like others on Twitter, he was emotional about this incident, and he quickly segregated me with the anti-gun crowd when I asked him for specifics about his suggestions.

I'm a pro-gun guy, too. I feel it is a key constitutional right. Yet, I worry that bringing armed guards into our elementary schools isn't going to solve the problem. That Sandy Hook school already had safety protocols in place. According to reports, the shooter was buzzed into the school—dressed in camo no less! The children were safe in their castle until somebody let the drawbridge down. The monster simply strode over the moat. He was family—the son of a teacher—and he betrayed them all.

Monsters take advantage of our trust as we walk around in the illusion of freedom. Today TSA workers will only steel your iPad, but one day can we expect to see a real monster, uniformed, armed and paid by us, bringing a nightmare into an airport somewhere?

Obviously, we can no longer pretend that our quaint village is safe and free from monsters, so precautions must be made, but as we put our minds to the task let us not be so eager to toss away our freedoms for security theater and more illusions. All across America people are getting tribal again over the gun issue. Let's be sure this time to not be so caught up in the battle that we forget about the war. We need to find a sensible balance between safety and liberty while we strive to prevent future horrors.

We can't regulate monsters, or stop them from acting out. Somehow, we must take the battle from the idealogical front to the one inside the minds of those who would be monsters. Protect our children, yes, but don't seal them away without liberties. We saw today how ineffectual that was.

As of this moment, two more children died in the hospital. I had hoped that writing about this would give me peace of mind, but as the facts unfold over the next few days, and the tales of tragedy become known, there will be a lot more grieving. I pray that we all can avoid partisanship while we grieve, and not forget that those who have lost family today grieve most of all.