Back in July, President Obama expressed his sorrow regarding the mass shooting in Aurora, Colorado. But, "There are going to be other days for politics," he said, "This is a day for prayer and reflection."
Just five months later -- as 26 more people, including 18 children, were added to the list of 100,000 people who are shot or killed by a gun every year -- the message was no different. Jay Carney, the White House Press Secretary, said the day will come to talk about sensible gun control, "But I don't think today is that day."
As the news unfolded, many of the nation's top leaders had similar things to say. Both senators from Connecticut, Richard Blumenthal and Joseph Lieberman, sent out their "prayers," calling the day's events a "tragedy." Senators Kirsten Gillibrand and Chuck Schumer of New York are also "praying," and added that the events are "horrifying."
This will not be the first time -- or the last -- that our elected leaders hide behind the politically convenient veil of compassion, only to turn the other way as more innocent lives continue to be taken. We will condemn, convict, and deride the man who carried out this senseless attack, just as we turn a blind eye to the dozens of others who will unquestionably follow in his footsteps.
And as Albert Einstein reminds us, we will forget who the real enemy is. As Einstein said, "The world will not be destroyed by those who do evil, but by those who watch them without doing anything."
In the name of sensitivity, we tighten our lips when tragedy strikes. But I cannot think of a more insensitive person than one that watches as innocent children are killed, yet simultaneously leaves in place the system that allowed it to happen. Those are the real criminals among us.
Why is it that we are so paralyzed by our emotions? Why do we feel compelled to save the serious discussions for when our grief wears off? The tears shed and the sorrow felt in the midst of this tragedy are just as real as the job numbers and unemployment rate that garner our attention within minutes. Let's not idolize our brains at the expense of our hearts.
With the fiscal cliff debate captivating the entire conversation in Washington, it's easy to lose sight of what's truly important. But the news from Newtown, Connecticut is a striking reminder that, regardless of the dominant political issues of jobs and the economy, what matters most is that the hearts of our friends, family, and children can continue to beat. If only our elected leaders could remember that.
The constant "thoughts and prayers" for the victims are surely comforting, but they are far short of a serious solution. If our leaders truly want to lead, it's time they put the lives of their voters before the fears of their advisors.
Follow Jess Coleman on Twitter: www.twitter.com/@jesskcoleman