Remorse. Sadness. Grief. Disbelief.
And anger. I can’t forget about the anger regardless of how much I want to.
Those are just some of the very human emotions that overwhelmed me as listened to the news about the shootings in Newtown, Connecticut. Just some of them. To list them all would create something unreadable.
As I sat on I-95 near Philadelphia heading home from a long day at the office, I wept openly. Visions of my own children danced in my head. Visions of children everywhere flooded my mind. Those smiling faces, those wondering minds, those innocent souls. I could hear the banter flowing through those classrooms on what should have been just another Friday as children transformed into students eagerly anticipating a holiday season. I could imagine parents not unlike myself rushing around that morning, trying to get their children ready for a school day while trying to get themselves ready for a busy day at work. I could imagine parents who, had they known this would be the last time they would see their babies, may have forsaken all worldly endeavors for those final few moments of complete presence in lives they had a large part in creating.
Yes, our worldly endeavors seem a bit silly in those moments when we are faced with the loss of innocence and the finality of death. The Eagles losing yet another game is forgotten. The need to make end-of-year sales numbers seems meaningless when the idea of a tiny casket flashes across your mind. The arguments between lovers becomes very unimportant when the knowledge that one day you will not be with her and that one day physical and intellectual separation will be permanent. In truth, very little seems important when faced with mortality, particularly when it is the mortality of our children, our innocence, our posterity.
We fear permanence even more than we fear impermanence. The only thing that is permanent in our human experience is death, and we seem to fear that more than we fear anything else. It rattles us, not only because we don’t know what is coming afterward, but because it is so final. We not only fear our own deaths, we fear the death of our loved ones. Yet, it wasn’t death that found me weeping on a busy highway during rush hour, it was the death of innocence and of promise. It was knowing that each and every one of those children senselessly killed likely had no idea of what death was. It was knowing that each and every one of those sweet angels was left relatively unprotected despite deserving our fiercest shelter. It was knowing the fear they must have felt, and it was in feeling the ultimate betrayal as the shooter did the Devil’s work. How utterly devoid of compassion he must have been; how much hatred he must have held on to. It is quite unimaginable to, fortunately, the vast majority of us.
Now, I’d rather not focus on the man who destroyed so much in such a small period of time. Instead, I want to focus on the reaction many of us had to his horrifying actions. Many of us found love overflowing from our eyes. We found compassion pouring out of us. We found empathy, sympathy, and new-found purpose in each tiny droplet of salty water that made its way into air. We found that piece of ourselves that sometimes gets lost in the hustle and bustle of the illusion in which we “live”. We discovered a piece of truth in the lie, and will hold on to that truth at least for a little while. We will hug our lovers tighter tonight. We will be more present with our children. We will be more present with ourselves.
So, when I am asked “why?” I know what to say. I have no idea why a 20-year old man would lose his grip on his own humanity and divinity. Yet, those children did not die in vain if we, even for one second, pause to be more present in our lives and in our loves. Those children did not die in vain if the final words I say to my own loves is “I love you”. This understanding gives the very thing I can’t understand some understanding. It gives the senseless some meaning. It gives those of us who are doubting some sense of hope. That’s “why” my friends. So, get to it and don’t let those beautiful souls leave our consciousness while we have a chance to make good on the very thing that makes us who we are.
Make love like you have never made love before. Embrace each other like it is the last time you will feel those arms around you. Absorb the “daddy” and “mommy” moments fully as if they will be the last. Don’t live in fear of the end, embrace it and make it meaningful in your daily experience. Don’t go to bed angry with those you love. Don’t do anything that will sour your epithet. Don’t hug anger, hug love and don’t let go. Fight for it. Feel it. And cherish every moment you get to share it.
Love, laugh and live fully. Help others love, laugh and live fully. Let’s get rid of the need for instruments of death in our lives. Let’s cherish life and the living more than we cherish material things. Start saying “no” to your boss and “yes” to your family. Get high if you want. Whatever. Just start fucking living.
This is not an admonition to you. This is an admonition to me that I simply want to share with you. You are free to do as you please. Me, I want to have no regrets at the end of the last day I share with someone. I want to know I lived it all fully, even the bitter moments, and that in the end I’ve loved more fully than I’ve feared.
I am sure that soon enough we will see the smiling faces of those beautiful babies flashing across our televisions and computer screens. We will hear wonderful stories of victims, their families, and their own unique promise. We will cry again at the sight of young, smiling faces and we will make resolutions to end lunacy and seek love as our shelter. We will live, even for an instant, in the warm and loving embrace of knowing ourselves as more than money, more than ideology, and more than nationality. We will find our own promise and potential before settling back into our very human roles of forgetful man as the memory of those smiling faces fades.
I will also remember that the killer himself was once one of those smiling faces, and I will wonder what drove him to such darkness. I will wonder because I don’t want any other child to lose that part of himself that makes him both human and loving divinity. We all deserve our own sense of innocence, and it is time we start treating our children like they remind us of our own innocence and freedom. Children are not afterthoughts, they are not nuisances that keep us from work or our favorite reality shows. They are not weapons, and they are not punching bags. They are wonderful creations that we had some part in, and as such deserve not just the best of who we are as individuals, but also the best of who we are as a society. We owe it to them to pass laws that ensure that it is far less likely that they will be staring down the barrel of a firearm as they cry for a mommy and daddy who aren’t there to protect them.
Yes, I am done being on the fence about gun control. I’m done seeing the “right to bear arms” as equally important to the right of “life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness.” Those children lost their rights to life. They lost their rights to liberty. They lost their rights to happiness as a madman pulled the trigger over and over again of a weapon he had the right to own. Gun control is not about the erosion of American rights, it is about the guarantee of them. So, fuck you, fuck your need to own a semi-automatic rifle and multiple handguns. You only have two hands, and I doubt Nancy Lanza could have shot both handguns while handling a semi-automatic rifle in the process.
Face it, 27 people, including 20 innocent school children, could have been alive today if our government and We the People had the balls to get rid of guns as a “right” and, instead, made it impossible to get them. End the War on Drugs, that failed social experiment that only ensures more of us spend time in jail than ever before, and begin the War on Guns. Empty our prisons of drug users and fill them with gun owners who fail to see that they have absolutely no reason to own firearms if no one else does.
See, Nancy Lanza was not going to go hunting. She obviously did not find protection in the guns she owned as her son gunned her down. In fact, the guns she owned ended up killing her, so I’m sure if given a Mulligan she’d probably take them back even without a refund. I’m sure she loved the children in her class, so I doubt she felt the Second Amendment worth the lives of 20 of them as well as 6 of her colleagues. I doubt as she faced her end she thought of Charlton Heston and his famous “out of my cold, dead fingers” pronouncement.
I will not use the term “rest in peace” for those children and brave adults who died on December 14th in Connecticut. That’s offensive to the very nature of the crime committed against them. Rather, we should have been blessing them with a “live in peace” on December 13th. We should have ensured their safety then, not given it lips service now. Prayers and love and compassion are meaningless to them now, but how much could it have meant to them Thursday? Yeah, that’s what I mean. Tomorrow is too late. Now is what matters.
And for Pete’s sake let’s stop being married to an ideal written 250 years ago in a document that was meant to be changed when necessary. It is necessary now, more than ever, to rid ourselves of the scourge of firearms in this nation. Our children deserve it, and we, as loving, caring, and intelligent adults need to ensure we protect them within a society that demands change. Yes, our society is demanding change. That is evident in the gun violence that is destroying us from within.
It is so evident that all we need to is review the gun violence over the last 10 years and ask, “how is that Second Amendment working out for you?” I’d say not at all. It’s time to move beyond the ideas that violence is the answer (that isn’t really working out for us either) and toward something a little harder to do but much more rewarding (as Gandhi and the independent India he helped give birth to without firing ONE SINGLE SHOT proved). I love Gandhi and his example because he was a tiny, diminutive man who successfully rebelled against a world superpower without ever owning a gun. It’s time we follow that example and bury Charlton Heston’s somewhere far away where we never need look at it again.
For now, I will follow other people who are crying, praying and empathizing with those victims of gun violence who decided to follow the pursuit of happiness rather than the right to bear arms and were shot in the process. Yet I will not let this fire within me be buried with those victims. Instead, I will use it to work toward ensuring that we create no other victims for the stupidity of a few who love the power of shooting something so dearly. It’s time to end the lunacy, and never forget those who died for nothing more than an ideal.