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Yes: It's About Gun Violence, But It's Also About How We Treat Each Other

12/14/2012 06:29 pm ET | Updated Feb 13, 2013
  • Anjali Sareen World-traveler and writer, blogging at TheLitmoLife.com

In Connecticut this morning, 20 young children left their homes for school. In Connecticut this afternoon, 20 sets of parents found out that none of those children will ever come home again.

The White House admonished their press corp that "today isn't the day" to talk about gun control laws or politics, but rather, today is the day for grieving. The White House is right. And, they're horribly, horribly wrong.

Today has to be the day where we grieve together, united as a nation. Today has to be the day we give support to the parents and families that have lost their children. Today has to be the day we reach and out and provide love to the students who were physically uninjured, knowing that their emotional scars might be worse. Perhaps today might not be the exact moment to begin a national dialogue about where we went wrong, but as this tragedy, and the several others we've experienced just this year make clear, we are going wrong somewhere and it is the time to discuss it, together, united as a nation. Now.

Often, during a tragedy like this, the talk immediately turns to the failure of American gun control laws. Statistics will be cited. We'll be told our gun murder rates are worse than the next several countries combined, we'll be told other nations have virtually ended gun violence with stricter laws, and we'll be told that arming the populace even more isn't the answer. All of these things are likely true and those who know me know that my stance often aligns with other liberal Democrats on these issues: We DO need better gun control.

Another conversation that happens during times like this is about the mental health system in America: does it work? How can we make it work better? How can we reach out to those who need our help before they commit another atrocity? Like gun control, I believe this is a conversation that also DOES need to happen.

But we also need to have another conversation in this country, perhaps even this world, and that conversation needs to be about how we prevent the inception of the crime in the mind of the would-be criminal. The answer isn't just to fix our gun control laws, it's to fix ourselves.

What we aren't doing, and likely have never done, as a nation, is to connect all the dots. Our children go to school and fear they will be bullied; those same children spend hours watching reality TV shows where contestants and judges bully each other. We tell our kids to follow their dreams, but we think it's okay that we live lives where we hate our jobs, drink to numb ourselves and barely connect with our families. We teach our children to turn to God, have faith and treat their fellow man as they would want to be treated, but those same religious teachings are being used as an excuse for Americans to spread hate throughout our nation. The social media culture that lets us continuously talk about ourselves is overwhelmingly accepted, but stopping to ask a stranger if they're alright isn't.

The answer can't be trying to fix just one or two issues, the answer must be an overhaul of the way we live our lives. We talk about the gun accessibility and mental health of the shooters, but we rarely talk about the fact that anger and loneliness isn't just reserved for criminals. Who among us hasn't felt lost and alone, with no where to turn? Perhaps that's a consequence not of the fact that only certain individuals reach the "mental illness" threshold, but perhaps that's a consequence of the fact that we're living in a broken world. When our bodies get physically sick, it's perfectly acceptable to take a day off from the world, sit home and heal. When will we allow the same for our minds and our souls?

So I respectfully disagree with the White House: today IS the day we must begin a national conversation on where we went wrong, from gun control to mental health to bullying to hatred. But it's more than that: Today is also the day for grieving for one another and supporting each other and loving each other, but so must every day be.

How many more tragedies will we accept before we stand up and fight for a better world?