A week ago, who would have ever thought that Newtown, our sweet Newtown, would become a one-word metaphor for violence?
The once-proud flag standing in town center, forlorn in the rain at half-staff. Homes and businesses, lit but halfheartedly for Christmas. Streets clogged with press, residents downcast with glassy eyes and shuffling feet. And beyond its soft country borders, a county, a state, a nation, stricken in grief.
Indeed, has there been a time since 9/11 that all Americans have been as united in near-hopelessness as we are now? And yet I say 'near-hopelessness' because even as I write parents in Fairfield County are mobilizing into action, having decided, as so many do when scalding tragedy grips the throat, that they have had enough.
When a tragedy such as this occurs, our nation of givers bands together and asks, how can we help? Our better natures arrange candlelight vigils and teddy bear donations. We set up scholarship funds named for the innocent. We donate and write heartfelt missives on Facebook and Twitter. We cling to our children, watch anxiously as they clamber up bus steps and wake mid-night, thinking of the grief-stricken and wondering if they are sleeping or awake and drunk with misery.
Clearly, the time is near for a national conversation about gun control.
Apparently, Connecticut has among the strictest weapons laws in the nation. Whether our solutions lie in enforcing the laws we already have or creating new ones I know not. Perhaps the root cause is an insidious tolerance for violence, or perhaps we must do a better job understanding mental illness. Whichever, we must do a better job recognizing imminent danger.
I do know the Second Amendment was supposed to guarantee our collective freedom as a nation through the right to bear arms. It was supposed to guarantee that we would never become the victims of the tyranny of evil men. In the past, it did; yet now, our treasured Second Amendment has not shepherded our citizens safely through the valley of darkness, from Newtown to Aurora to Columbine and beyond.
The time for the politics of gun control is soon. But not now. First, let us celebrate with a heavy heart those who perished in Newtown, for as Queen Elizabeth II once said: “Grief is the price we pay for love.”
Let us take solace in the healing power of God's green earth. For even as we grieve, the trees still grow. The leaves will return in spring, the rain still falls, the birds still sing. Our rocks and mountains remain steadfast even as we drive past with slumped shoulders. The gentle deer still eat our carefully-tended shrubs.
As blood helps heal a wound, so do unrelenting, stately time and the certainty that the sun will, in fact, rise tomorrow morning. Even as we contemplate the events of December 14, 2012, even as they become another “remember when …” story to be told with a there but for the Grace of God go I shudder, Newtown will recover.
They do not want the robes of brave infamy they now wear. But God, or Fate, says they must, and we as a nation must help them tote this weary load.
Common hyperbole from common men renders words meaningless in trying times. But let us find temporary solace in words of James Barrie, who wrote, “God gave us memories that we might have roses in December.”