LOS ANGELES, December 14, 2012 — Many of us had never heard of the quiet enclave of Newtown, Connecticut. That town has now been etched into our hearts due to the tragic shooting of twenty-six people at Sandy Cook Elementary School. The events themselves have been extensively described, but the question is where we go from here. Healing will take time. For some victims solace may never come.
The airwaves are clogged with the opinions of putative “experts.” Groups are already planning to picket the White House to demand strict gun laws. There will be calls to ban video games, morning cartoons, and talk radio. Among President Obama’s well-considered remarks there was one red flag, a comment about taking “meaningful action, regardless of the politics.” If he means gun control, this is as sensible as banning shopping malls and public schools. Cooler heads do not prevail when people are red-hot angry. The anger is justified, but the “solutions” being tossed around aren’t. Sandy Hook Elementary School had a security system, yet the shooter was voluntarily allowed inside. The guns were legally registered to the killer’s mother. He stole them.
People want the government to “do something,” but what can be done when a man puts no value on others’ lives and cares nothing for his own? Whether in the Gaza Strip or a Connecticut suburb, it is impossible to reason with people on a determined homicide-suicide mission. Finding answers involves analytical and logical reasoning, which is utterly useless when dealing with irrational perpetrators and actions. “Batman” may have only been a movie, but Michael Caine expressed it perfectly in the 2008 version when as Alfred the Butler he lamented “Some men aren’t looking for anything logical, like money. They can’t be bought, bullied, reasoned or negotiated with. Some men just want to watch the world burn.”
The Connecticut tragedy has absolutely nothing to do with politics, but craven (and some well-intentioned) politicians will try to exploit this tragedy for political gain. Some who lament the breakdown of civility and the coarseness of our culture will argue that the solution is to silence some who disagree with them. Silencing speech will destroy society, not fix it.
There are no perfect solutions, but there are some things we can do. The question is whether or not people are willing to do them.
The easy part is to pray. Jews celebrating Hanukkah will light candles tonight and say extra prayers for the victims. Christians will keep these people in their hearts on Christmas. Atheists do not believe in God, but they have human empathy and will offer it in abundance.
The next step is to try to do something we may never succeed in doing but must still attempt. We must try to figure out what ails the human heart and the human mind. Hate is a powerful weapon, but love is a powerful defense system. Rabbi David Wolpe wrote a book, “Why Faith Matters,” which ably attempts to answer the hardest philosophical questions. He said in a sermon:
“Today is Rosh Chodesh, the new month, as well as Hanukkah and Shabbat is approaching. But no day is so sacred that human cruelty cannot mar its holiness. Yet no moment is so terrible that human kindness cannot contribute to its redemption. Yes, we can destroy; but we can also sanctify. We can also heal. And we must ever hope. Chodesh Tov, Hanukkah Sameach and Shabbat Shalom.”
Ken Trump, the National School Safety and Security Services President, summed it up saying, “We don’t need metal detectors. We need mental detectors.” Sadly, we may need both. Perhaps public schools will decide that keeping children alive is worth adding a security line item to their budget. But this will not fix people who for some reason do not have the same wiring that the rest of us have. Anger is normal, but killing sprees are not. Perhaps society will be less politically correct going forward about institutionalizing people who should not live with the general population. Is that cruel? Would it be cruel if the greater good required it?
Parents can do a better job as well. The killer’s parents could have been fantastic people who raised their son properly. Some children can’t be fixed by all the love and good parenting in the world. Yet many parents abuse their children physically, sexually, and psychologically. Those parents should not be surprised when their children explode in rage later on. We often get what we give. Like a computer, garbage in means garbage out.
The line between discipline and abuse has to be learned. Dogs bred for dogfighting are more abusive than ones lovingly cared for. Some parents treat their children worse than their family pets. Conversely, many parents do an excellent job and are as helpless as the rest of us to combat the evil in this world that exists when the child leaves the house. Sadly, public schools are where many of these evils, including drugs, are discovered.
There is one vitally important thing that everyone can do today. It will not solve the problem, but it will help. We all have to get back to “love thy neighbor.” We have to talk to each other. We have to listen. We are stuck with each other, so it is better to extend an outstretched hand than a closed fist.
Facebook and text messaging can supplement our existing lives, but they should not be our lives. Internet friendships are not “real.” Real life is talking to people on the telephone and meeting them in person. No social network or Internet chatroom can adequately substitute for real human interaction. Most people who write nasty messages on Internet message boards using anonymous screen names would probably not act this way if they had to face in person the people they bully.
(In my condo building, people keep to themselves. Most of my neighbors are unknown to me, and this is something I keep promising to correct).
The other day in Michigan, people who were angry over policies they disagreed with resorted to violence. Fox News reporter Steven Crowder was punched in the face simply for having opposing views. An innocent hot dog vendor named Clinton Tarver had his hot dog cart overturned as the mob shouted racist obscenities at him (Mr. Tarver is black). This man was not a political operative. He sells hot dogs. He is “everyman.” When everyman is attacked, we are all attacked.
How can we deal with mass murderers when we can’t even have political disagreements without violence? How can we enjoy going to shopping malls when people push and shove each other over Black Friday sales? How can we go to a sportsbar when drunken louts get into fist-fights over players they will most likely never meet? Sometimes the best way to reduce violence is for people who are inclined to commit violence to simply act like decent human beings.
Violence cannot be eliminated, but the way to reduce it is for people to stop engaging in it. For most of us, it involves simply doing right. Outside of self-defense and defense of another, there is no justification for violence.
We may never know if what happened in Newtown could have been prevented. Yet maybe it could have. My closest friends and I made a pact that if ever things get really deep and dark, we will pick up a telephone and make a phone call. Even if (especially if) it is 4:00 in the morning, there will be no questions asked.
If you think that somebody has nobody to turn to, then turn to them. Talk to them. Listen to them. As “The Fray” sing so beautifully, this is “how to save a life.”
Love your neighbor. Shake a hand. Give a hug. Empathize. Then take solace in the fact that the shock, anger, and sadness we all feel is proof that society is still salvageable. Accepting evil is not the “new normal.” If it were, there would not be so many good people who care.
Don’t let good people lose heart. If good people give up, then everything truly is all in vain. That cannot be allowed to happen.
May God bless the people of Newtown, Connecticut, child victims everywhere, and those trying to celebrate Hanukkah and Christmas while praying for peace.
Brooklyn born, Long Island raised, and now living in Los Angeles, Eric Golub is a politically conservative columnist, blogger, author, public speaker, satirist and comedian. Eric is the author of the book trilogy “Ideological Bigotry, “Ideological Violence,” and “Ideological Idiocy.”
Eric is 100% alcohol, tobacco, drug, and liberalism free. Follow Eric on Twitter @TYGRRRREXPRESS. Read more from Eric at TYGRRRR EXPRESS
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