Friday's horrible shootings at Sandy Hook Elementary School spiraled the nation into deep mourning and sent us searching for answers. While the community in and around Newtown, Connecticut deals with incredible loss and begins living in a world that will never be quite the same, the rest of the nation embarked on the philosophical quest that usually follows such a tragedy.
As the details of the loss of our national treasures -- those precious children and dedicated teachers -- became public, there were immediate calls for a national conversation on gun policy and mental illness. Dialogue is how the populace begins to reconcile the heartbreaking events and the emotional rollercoaster that immediately follows. But, quite frankly, if there is one thing we do not need, it's more talking. Now is the time to take action, and it is long overdue.
When bad things happen to the nation, it immediately starts the grieving process, of which the first two stages are shock and then bargaining. This latter stage is our inclination to make sense of the tragedy and determine how we could have prevented it. What follows next is the ubiquitous insistence on a national conversation. We feel the need to talk it out to make it real, because if it is real, then it is manageable and avoidable.
Today, because of Sandy Hook, the gun debate and discussion on treatment for the mentally unstable are unavoidable. Just as it was last week after the shooting in a Portland, Oregon mall, and the killings at a movie theater in Colorado last summer, and the attempted assassination of Representative Gabriel Giffords, and Virginia Tech, and, unfortunately, many others. Yet here we are a few days after yet another shooting calling for more conversation.
A national conversation is a coping mechanism, but it is time for the nation to get up from the therapist's couch. While we certainly need to come to terms with what is happening across the country, it is much more important to begin addressing and resolving it so that it does not happen again. In fact, it is more than important, it is a mandate.
And it's not just guns. In 2008 when Senator Barack Obama was running for President, it was time for a national conversation on race. The killing of Trayvon Martin armed with candy and iced tea also called for this same conversation. The 2012 election and the looming fiscal cliff demand a national conversation on social programs. The politicization of women's minds and bodies meant we must have a national conversation on gender.
With all these conversations, who is actually doing the doing? We do not live in a post-racial society, even in a country with a black President. We have faced decades of debt, deficit, and demography that challenge our social responsibilities to our poor and elderly, yet the fiscal cliff is upon us. American women are the highest achieving and most accomplished women in the history of civilization, yet we still need the Lilly Ledbetter Act just to ensure they are paid the money they earned.
Conversations are great, and they are equally insufficient. And we've had them, repeatedly. No more national conversations on topics that have been discussed for decades; it's time for a national conversion. As I wrote elsewhere last week, and as the President stated at Sunday's Newtown vigil: we must change.
Our country will forever be a place where citizens have the right to bear arms. It will always be a place where slavery occurred and where women were constrained. We will always have mentally ill citizens, prejudices, elderly, children we need to protect and educate, and social classes. These issues are not new and more conversation does not resolve them.
Most importantly, we will always be Americans, and thus, must determine what actions need to be taken so that every one of us, despite all the inherent natural and man-made challenges, enjoy our inalienable rights. At the founding of our country, after a national conversation on independence and ethos, our founding fathers acted. And while imperfect, that action was an enormous leap forward.
Conversation is obviously necessary. It is the expression of our right to freedom of speech and critical to the exchange of ideas that makes us American. And there are many citizens and organizations around the country fighting for equity for all, bringing attention to the Second Amendment and responsible adherence to it, and taking action on a number of issues that dialogue has preceded. We are not all motionless, paralyzed by fear or indifference. In corners of our country, there is action.
But there is more to be done. And what remains to be accomplished will not be achieved by a national conversation on things that have been debated to no end.
The children who unfairly perished Friday should not look down from the heavens above and watch our conversation. We owe them more than that. Let us now do. After all, actions speak louder than words.