This week's issue largely focuses on the tragedy in Newtown, bringing together essays and moving photos to capture the horror and heartbreak of that day.
In his introduction, Saki Knafo presents a snapshot of Newtown -- the "rolling green hills," the "Christmas wreaths hanging from the old wooden doors of the church," idyllic features that became the backdrop for an incomprehensible act. Knafo writes about the semi-automatic way the story ripples outward, spurring community meetings, political promises, standard-issue excuses and anxiety among gun-owners, some of whom wonder if "the government will finally deprive them of the right to acquire weapons designed to kill dozens with a squeeze of the trigger?"
Elsewhere in the issue, Peter Goodman writes of the natural tendency, and the folly, of trying to make sense of such violence. In the wake of Newtown -- just as in the wake of Tucson, Aurora, etc. etc. etc. -- we've cycled through the usual questions about the shooter: "Who raised him? Was he in the military? Did he play video games? Was he in a cult? Did mental illness take him to this dark place, and did we miss the warning signs along the way?" But as Goodman writes, it's our familiarity with this line of questioning, the fact that there is a cycle, that is the real tragedy. Because even if we could answer all those unanswerable questions, we'd still be left with one incontrovertible fact: "This man woke up in a country in which virtually anyone can easily access weapons -- with little more effort than is required to put gasoline in the tank of their car -- that give them the power to murder people."
Lisa Belkin, considering the massacre as a parent, writes that the natural urge after such a tragedy -- "to grieve and hold our children close" -- is not enough. Not when the numbers testify to the depth of our national crisis: Of all the children killed by guns in the 23 wealthiest countries in the world, 87 percent are American kids. The way we confront this crisis has everything to say about us as parents. But Belkin goes further: It's not just about us as parents, but about us as citizens, about what kind of country we want to live in and raise our children to inherit. If we cannot take care of our most vulnerable citizens, we forfeit "the right to call ourselves a civilized nation."
This appears in our weekly iPad magazine, Huffington, in the iTunes App store. This story appears in Issue 28, available Friday, Dec. 21.