- Posted December 20, 2012 by
This iReport is part of an assignment:
Newtown school shooting: Thoughts and tributes
We Are All Responsible for Newtown
For those of us who believe that America is the greatest land in the world, it is no surprise that the events of Newtown have triggered a disturbing realization that our country is running off the rails. Still, we have had exponentially higher gun-related death rates than other developed countries for many years. so what is it about Newtown that may have finally changed the conversation?
For the many who have long opposed gun control, there is a plethora of strained arguments and obfuscations that have both altered the political calculus and numbed those of us at the other end of the debate. Fear creates its own empathy-free logic, in which no rational acknowledgement of statistics and their causal relationship is possible. In the face of pointless arguments dripping with emotion, there is usually no point in continuing the discussion.
A common tactic is the “If they had a gun” argument, which deftly shifts the blame onto those who support gun control while citing some now-debunked research. This argument also points a faint arrow of responsibility for one’s death to those who have died, because “if they had a gun” they might still be alive. It is a comforting worldview for the gun lobby because it implies that our gun culture has no responsibility for the consequences of guns. All responsibility resides with the individual (or the gun control laws that presumably allowed this to happen).
What Newtown did was lay bare the absurdity of this argument. The now conceivable contentions that elementary schools must arm our teachers and equip 6 and 7 year olds with body-armor backpacks call into question not only our state of civilization, but whether it still even exists. It compels us to ask ourselves, what are we? Who are we, if we have now reached a point in our history in which these “precautions” must be taken in America while being completely unnecessary in every other civilized country in the world?
Our shared pain from Newtown is so searing because it involves such innocence. While the NRA might have managed to deflect guilt and diminish the innocence of massacred adults – because all of them could have supposedly had their own gun – they can’t do that with children. They also can’t divert blame entirely to our mental health system; all countries have mental health issues and all of them have individuals who want to do harm to themselves and others. The difference is that America puts the most devastating means to carry out that harm within their relatively easy reach.
This leads us to the real reason that Newtown has so affected us with sadness and outrage. It is because we know, with varying levels of acceptance and awareness, that we are all responsible.
We are all responsible for the state of our civilization and the standards of our society, and we have – for whatever reason you choose –let the unique parameters under which we have chosen to live take the lives of the most innocent among us. No one is completely free of guilt and that is our starting point. We must embrace this collective responsibility rather than point fingers at any one individual or entity (including the NRA) because it is the only way forward, and our only path back toward what might be universally defined as a civilization.