Like millions of you, I went about my daily routine this morning, that included packing up the kids and dropping them off at elementary school. I was a better dad than this past Friday, before America’s latest reality, when I barked at one who forget her lunch, another who forget his jacket, and the oldest for taking forever to get out the door. Routines and realities changed in the last 72 hours, givens are replaced by worries, and our most precious commodities, the things we would all die for - our children suddenly seemed so fragile. Before the unfolding tragedy Friday, where every hour added another chapter to an unimaginable horror story, I always viewed mass killings as a sick symptom of a disease that affected other parts of America - not in a town like mine, not to children that could have been my own. Newtown did everything right, the parents loved their kids, the school cared about safety and adored the children... and still.
Tragedy and perspective far too often nowadays go hand in hand. Every American, especially those who tucked in little loved ones Friday night, knows how blessed we are but can't possibly imagine how those 20 families who had their insides ripped out wake up to mornings without their babies.
As Americans we always seek out the light in the darkness and Sandy Hook Elementary School had that in spades. I am awed by the courage and the grace in Newtown. We throw around the label "hero" far too casually but inside that school on that horrifying Friday morning not one teacher ran. They treated those kids like they were their own and if we need a symbol of what we should all aspire to be, look to Victoria Soto. This amazing woman, a kid in many ways herself, stood between the shooter and a room full of six year olds and made the ultimate sacrifice.
But tonight I don't feel like being inspired. Tonight like a lot of you I am sad, angry and tired of a cycle of grief, remembrance, wringing of hands and repeat. These 20 kids are America’s children and if their stolen futures are met with nothing more than lit candles, stuffed teddy bears and empty words we will have shamed their loss.
By now a familiar narrative has emerged - sick young man, troubled family, access to firepower suitable for a battlefield and massive loss of life, including - like all these cowards - his own. We learn his mother too was not all there - a survivalist, with delusions of looming catastrophe and the seemingly requisite firepower. The warning signs of Adam Lanza either dismissed or ignored: with body armor, assault weapons and hundreds of rounds of ammunition he laid siege to little boys and girls who were learning to read. We now learn if not for the approaching sirens of the first responders he likely would have moved on to the remaining classrooms and kids.
So yes, I am very sad, and I said my prayers this Sunday but I am also very angry. This did not happen in some third world outpost, this happened at a grammar school that could have been where you or me dropped off our kids. I’m angry that we live in a culture that celebrates the conspiracy theorists and creates shows legitimizing their fringe end of days. I’m angry that networks claiming to be purveyors of fair and balanced news give shows to charlatans who warn of a gun grabber president, in league with the enemy and ready for a race war. I’m angry at those who cut funding for mental health, then bemoan on Saturday how the deranged could have done this. And I’m angry at myself for not having the spine to have spoken out louder and more often about permitting my country to put my children at risk.
I believe in the right to bear arms but I didn't sign up for this. More Americans have been killed in our country this year by gun than all U.S. soldiers killed in all the years of the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan. If you've got a child between kindergarten and eighth grade they are 13 times more likely to be murdered by gun a than in any other industrialized nation.
People shouldn't have to worry that going to a mall, a movie theater, a place of worship or sending your children to a grammar school might equate to a mass shooting, but in the last four years it has. What else has changed in the last four years? Unprecedented gun sales, fueled by lies and new laws that now make it legal to bring guns into bars, churches, onto college campuses and laws that let felons and the mentally ill more easily get their firearms back.
I know a lot of people believe it’s going to different this time, because the president says so and politicians aren't as afraid of the NRA, but I think that’s b.s.
If we as a nation acknowledge that the gun culture has long ago crossed over into a national security issue it will be because of 20 little six year olds who reminded every last one of us that they could be our daughters or sons, grandkids, brothers or sisters.
So yes, I’ve hugged my kids tighter but if that’s all you and I do, then we’ve failed the best among us in Newtown, Connecticut.