THE BLOG
12/18/2012 11:38 am ET Updated Feb 17, 2013

The School That Democracy Built: A Poem

Like the house in the centuries-old English nursery rhyme, "The House that Jack Built," the building in my unoriginal and crude poem below appears chaotic and poorly built. Perhaps it looks the way it does because I'm angry, shocked, troubled, sad, defeated...

There are no words to describe this father's emotions, even as I can still hope to kiss my sons goodnight tonight. But perhaps those like me who look for the causes of Newtown's loss can offer a somewhat productive inspection of the building falling in on its citizens, even if too early after Sandy Hook.

The truth about buildings like the one in my poem, like the one assaulted by a heavily armed individual intent on murder on Friday, is this: I've helped build it, we've helped build it, the church has helped build it, and the Constitution has helped build it. It is predictably unstable and rightly so. Still, we can prevent it from crushing more of its inhabitants. We can sensibly shore up its political joists. We can salvage its noble foundations while laying adequate social sub-flooring. And we can remove the economic rot from the walls dividing its rooms.

Democracy is fragile, but so is any human-made shelter from chaos. Lord have mercy, Christ have mercy...

This is the school that democracy built.

These are the children
That learned in the school that democracy built.

This is the gunman
That killed the children
That learned in the school that democracy built.

This is the law
That armed the gunman
That killed the children
That learned in the school that democracy built.

This is the gun group
That lobbied the law
That armed the gunman
That killed the children
That learned in the school that democracy built.

This is the money of middle-class scorn
That powers the gun group
That lobbied the law
That armed the gunman
That killed the children
That learned in the school that democracy built.

This is the ideology of public servants sworn
That protects the money of middle-class scorn
That powers the gun group
That lobbied the law
That armed the gunman
That killed the children
That learned in the school that democracy built.

This is the media shaping culture's norms
That spreads the ideology of public servants sworn
That protects the money of middle-class scorn
That powers the gun group
That lobbied the law
That armed the gunman
That killed the children
That learned in the school that democracy built.

This is the individualism with rights adorned
That craves the media shaping culture's norms
That spreads the ideology of public servants sworn
That protects the money of middle-class scorn
That powers the gun group
That lobbied the law
That armed the gunman
That killed the children
That learned in the school that democracy built.

This is the religion of neighbor-love shorn
That preaches individualism with rights adorned
That craves the media shaping culture's norms
That spreads the ideology of public servants sworn
That protects the money of middle-class scorn
That powers the gun group
That lobbied the law
That armed the gunman
That killed the children
That learned in the school that democracy built.

This is the democracy battered and worn
That practices religion of neighbor-love shorn
That preaches individualism with rights adorned
That craves the media shaping culture's norms
That spreads the ideology of public servants sworn
That protects the money of middle-class scorn
That powers the gun group
That lobbied the law
That armed the gunman
That killed the children
That learned in the school that democracy built.