This year's holiday season will be forever remembered for the mass murder of young innocents in an elementary school in Newtown, Conn. Hasn't everyone in America, in the world, seen the coverage of the slaughter of 20 children and many of the adults who taught and cared for them? My family lit the Hanukkah Menorah as the details unfolded on TV. Our reaction is the nation's reaction. We are in deep mourning, made deeper by the image of Christmas gifts bought and wrapped, never to be opened by these children. Can the New Year be better and the next holiday season be nonviolent?
There has been a swift response linking the violence to assault weapons. Will calls for a ban on military-style assault weapons be successful? It's an uphill battle given the formidable passion of those who see more guns as the solution. A good friend sports a customized welcome mat at his front door that reads, "Glock lives here" and shows a graphic of the high-powered Glock gun. He takes the Glock into the back yard periodically and shoots a couple of birds to remind the neighbors what would happen if they broke into his house. He thinks that I'm denying citizens' rights, inviting criminal behavior, and denying protection to innocent people. He means well; he's a caring man, a religious man.
The first thing you see when you enter my friend's home is an elaborate display of religious artifacts. Devout and generous with his volunteer time at his church, he's a modern-day version of the World War II chaplain who uttered the phrase, "Praise the Lord and pass the ammunition." Comfortable with the juxtaposition of guns and religion, he could be a poster child for America's powerful duo. He is inflexible in his view of guns. However, he would be the first to acknowledge that his faith comes before all else.
What would happen if every religious leader in America took charge of shaping the national reaction to this tragedy? What if they began by denouncing the portrayal of bloody violence on screen? Most of the movies this holiday season feature various levels of carnage in a seeming competition to outdo each other with blood and gore. One violent movie debut has already been postponed. Can our religious leaders create an ongoing environment that shuns graphic violence all too often sold with equally graphic sex? Can our religious leaders target business people to underwrite new trends in movie making? Can they push the video game industry into a more creative and less violent mode? How can they, and we, not take this massacre as a call not only to ban assault guns but to change the culture?
We as individuals have more power than we realize to reinforce the seasonal themes of peace, goodwill and renewal. Boycott those violent films; certainly don't take your kids to see them. Discourage your friends from collecting guns because they think it's a sexy hobby. Encourage your religious leaders to speak against violence from the pulpit. Use social media to fuel the movement to ban assault guns. Above all, resolve a personal dedication to good works, to helping those in need, especially the mentally ill and communities where violence is a daily affair. Make those good works part of your New Year's resolutions. Make them publicly, soon and often.