I shouldn’t be writing tonight, at least not what I’m about to write. It’s too early, right? Tonight is a night for prayers and reflection, to hold our families close and be thankful that they are not among the twenty seven new angels in heaven tonight who should not be there. There will be a memorial, and some handwringing about what happened. And then we’ll move along with our lives until the next tragedy.
That’s the drill, isn’t it? And it’s unseemly to break that pattern by making political demands, by calling for an adult conversation about the culture of violence. Sure, we all have our culprit. Guns, banning prayer in school, video games, teaching evolution, rap music, allowing gays to live among us. We’ve all heard the arguments. We hear them every time from the chorus of clowns on the political fringes.
It’s part of the pattern, the theater that accompanies one of these mass shootings, and there is no serious dialog, no policy debate and nothing changes.
The part that is truly tragic and sick and disgusting is the fact that we know this. We know that there are “rules” and “etiquette” that calls for us to refrain from “politicizing” the tragedy by calling for gun control.
Damn the rules. Screw the etiquette.
Rules and etiquette are not stopping the mass shootings. Rules and etiquette have left us a world where I can send my kids to school with little more than the hope that their school will not be the next Columbine or Virginia Tech or Clackamas or Sandy Hook or Springfield or Tucson or Aurora or any of dozens of places whose names should live in infamy because of events like this but have been forgotten, washed from the sands of our national conscience by wave upon wave of successive massacres.
I don’t have all the answers, but there are a lot of smart people in this country. We can propose and debate and craft legislation to try to stem the tide of these tragedies. The problem lies with those who would tell me that in demanding something more than the luck of the draw to protect my kids, I am somehow threatening their liberty. The fact is that inaction threatens my liberty and that of my loved ones and your loved ones. We can do better, and we can do better without falling victim to some tyrannical conspiracy, but to do so we must break the tyranny of silence in the face of events that wrack our souls with grief and rage at the absolute wrongness of these events. The grief and rage are real and should be heeded, albeit thoughtfully.
Tonight our hearts are broken. There is a shattered community that needs our prayers. We need to hold them gently. We need to gather as a nation to lift them up. We need to mourn with them. Those facts should never be overlooked, but when it comes to trying to prevent these massacres in the future, we need to demand the conversations that the rules and etiquette we have come to associate with events such as this have prevented us from having.