For me, it's about the Christmas Presents they will never get.
It's been a hard time to be a feeling person in America. From the victims of Hurricane Sandy to the vitriol of the Presidential election, our emotions had been battered, beaten and bruised throughout the fall.
Then came December 14th, and, to me, everything else faded into the shadows.
I had spent that day with patients, cloistered in my office, sheltered from the news. It wasn't until the end of the day came when I learned of the tragedy at Sandy Hook Elementary School. After some extra long hugs for my kids that night, my wife and I glued ourselves to the news to learn all we could about what had happened. It took about 20 minutes until one reporter mentioned how close it was to Christmas, when I began to think about the presents that those kids will never get. That's when I shut off the news.
I haven't been able to look at it since.
Every time I inadvertently see something about the shootings, like the cover of the Sunday [New York] Times listing the names and ages of the victims in white and black, all I can think about is the Christmas Presents they will never get: The Christmas presents that their parents bought for them. The Christmas presents their siblings and friends made for them. The Christmas presents that they most certainly made for others. When I think of the Christmas presents, I shut down.
As a clinical psychologist, my job is to help people process their emotions and yet as a dad, an American, as a human being I'm not really sure how to process my own feelings about what happened in Newtown, Connecticut. One of the main premises of my work is that feelings are useful and if we can learn to listen to them they can guide our actions and purpose. I hope that as a nation we can our feelings to guide our response to this tragedy.
Between appointments yesterday I saw the NRA's response. For those of you who missed it, the NRA's plan to combat the violence in our schools is to provide (read: sell) more guns to the "properly trained -- armed -- good guy[s]" who should be put in our schools to protect our kids. I have read it several times and am including a link to it here so that you can too.
I can still taste the vomit in my mouth.
For a number of years, it was my job to assess inmates from Riker's Island for the courts in New York City. My office was on the secure floor at 100 Centre Street in lower Manhattan that served as a temporary holding environment for detainees. I had corrections officers stationed outside my door for my own protection. I evaluated some of the most dangerous members of our society who were on trial for the most heinous crimes we have laws for in this country and let me tell you this, I would not trust myself to tell you with absolute certainty who the good guys are and who the bad guys are, and I am unwilling to let the NRA do it either.
It's no longer time to be shocked or sad. It's time to be angry.
The time has come to do something different. I know the problem. I do not know the solution. But I do know this: It does not involve bringing more guns closer to our children.
Can we seize upon this unthinkable tragedy to develop a genuinely creative and sensible solution to the problem that does not simply involve lining the pockets of the gun manufacturers?
I don't care what your politics are: whether you are liberal or conservative, whether you voted for Obama or Romney, or anyone else. If you are a feeling human being, if you can conceive of the pain and sadness that is running through the blood of the families of the victims in Newtown, if you can think about the presents that will lay unopened this Christmas, I ask that you consider contributing your voice to our national conversation.
Let us do something different this time. Let us craft a plan that reduces, not increases, the numbers of guns in our schools. Let us open a discussion about better awareness of, and less fear and stigma of, mental illness, so that we don't isolate individuals who have the potential for this kind of violence. We must, as a nation, begin to think more broadly about this problem in order to ensure that we use all of our great power, intelligence, and creativity to ensure that this never happens again.