On Thursday, I attended my 5-year-old brother Alex's kindergarten Christmas musical -- a double feature of "The Birth of Christ" and "A Gingerbread Christmas." There was something about seeing all of those kids up there dressed as bakers, toy soldiers, angels, animals, and everything else that was just absolutely heart-warming. During that double feature I found them to be the epitome of the Christmas spirit. There's something quite touching -- not to mention innocent -- about children all singing Christmas carols at that age. For many of them it's the first Christmas that they'll really remember for years to come. At that age, they don't know about the alleged "War on Christmas" or anything like that, they just know that it's the most magical time of the year.
After his play, we had to go back to his classroom to help him out of his baker outfit and get him home. There were drawings of elves all over the walls and Christmas lists to Santa. You could see Christmas books spread on the bookshelves and decorations that the teachers put up making the rooms feel that much more cheery. It was so evident that everyone was just so excited for Christmas; the children, the teachers, and the parents. All of them will likely have a wonderful Christmas that they'll remember for years to come and it will be a much-needed coming togetherness for everyone.
But not in Newtown, Connecticut. For them, this Christmas will be one they will remember for all of the wrong reasons. Twenty parents will be burying their children instead of baking cookies with them or watching all of the classic Christmas movies with them. Twenty parents will have to unwrap presents and take them back to the stores or even leave them unopened forever instead of watching the delight on their child's face when they get the toy they asked Santa for a few weeks ago. Twenty parents won't be woken up on Christmas Day with shouts of glee instead having to walk past a dark Christmas tree in a silent house. But they are not the only ones who will be in mourning this Christmas; seven other families will have to deal with the deaths of their own loved ones. Seven families are now going to have to individually come together for funerals when they should have been coming together for Christmases.
I cannot understand what kind of horror the children in Newtown must have felt yesterday when they heard the first shots. When the news first broke all I could see was my brother's face and class huddling together in the corner of the room hoping that the locked door would be enough, and I'm sure other siblings -- not to mention parents -- saw similar images. The children in Newtown were and are so much more than just the children of Sandy Hook Elementary School; they were and are America's children. The faces of those children were and are the faces of children in everywhere from California to Maine, and we couldn't protect them.
From our earliest days we are taught that the two safest places in the world are home and school. We are taught that if strangers come up to us, we should tell somebody like a policeperson or a teacher. School is supposed to be safe, but for those children it wasn't. See, while the twenty children that died are the ultimate victims, the ones that survived them are victims as well. The survivors will be plagued with nightmares for who knows how long. For many of them, how will they be able to trust the world anymore? After all, if they can't believe that schools are safe how can they be expected to believe that anywhere is safe?
There have been a lot of horrific shootings in America in the past ten years, not to mention this year alone. From Aurora, Colorado to the Sikh temple shooting in Wisconsin, 2012 has been mired with tragic event after tragic event. Every time one of these happens, people take to Twitter and Facebook -- and I am admittedly one of those people -- and say something along the lines of: "Now is it time to talk about gun control?" Each time -- at least in my case -- there are people that respond to these posts with the same old spiel about Second Amendment rights or a variation of the statement: "Guns don't kill people, people kill people." Admittedly, I find these people to not only be ignorant, but also extremely selfish and apathetic but that is neither here nor there because that is not the point of this post.
Our country is so divided over gun control that we just don't talk about it. The issue is almost touchier than other hot topics like abortion or gay marriage in the sense that people literally take up arms and protest in the streets whenever they even smell the phrase "gun control." There was hardly any talk about gun control in presidential election, and that could have been because both Governor Romney and President Obama knew better than to dive into an issue where they would lose votes no matter what. In this country we never even bring up the idea of talking about gun control until it is far too late, and that is what I've finally realized: there will never be a "right" time to talk about gun control because we never get around to it until it is too late.
Maybe American society isn't ready for gun control. I absolutely hate the idea of that, but maybe as a society we still are far too primal and immature to get rid of unnecessary weapons. So let's go back to basics. Let's start at the root of the problem and work our way outwards until we reach a solution. We don't even have to call it gun control. The question that Congress -- on both aisles -- needs to ask itself is this: "How can we make it so that twenty elementary school children don't die like this ever again?" Consequently, in the cases of Aurora and the Sikh temple shooting they need to ask themselves: "How can we make it so that people in general don't die like this ever again?" From there, they work outward. Are mental health screenings the answer? Banning all guns outright? Should shady sellers be put out of business immediately? I know what my answers to those would be, but I am not making the laws and who's to say my answers would even be the right course of action anyways?
All I know is that twenty-seven families aren't going to have a Christmas this year, and if they do it will be one full of heartache. This cannot happen again. It should not have happened today and it should never happen again. Those kids could have been my brother, or your sibling. The adults that died were people's family, and they could have been yours or mine. Everyone at that school -- but especially the children -- had entire lives ahead of them that were snuffed out in a single instance, and that is not acceptable.
My heart goes out to those families, as does America's, and while our condolences come from the best intentions, they are not what those families need. Those families need for things to change so that this never happens to other families, and although I think that this tragic event will be the final straw for Congress and that at least some sort of conversation and action will come from this, I hate more than anything that it had to be.