As we all know, yesterday an unspeakable tragedy occurred. Adam Lanza walked into Sandy Hook Elementary School in Newtown, Connecticut and proceeded to unload round after round of gunfire. Ultimately, 20 children, six adults and Adam himself were the victims of yet another thoughtless act of gun violence.
Now, I’m an outspoken proponent for sensible gun control. There is no reason to have assault weapons in the streets and no reason that we should forgo background checks for anyone. That being said, there will be another day for debate on policy. Today is a day for mourning and reflection.
I cannot help but to reflect on the nature of culture that has romanticized violence. We live in a society where violence is often seen as the only response to conflict, personal or otherwise. Turn on the radio and hear tales of shoot em ups and gun smoke. We often point a finger at hip-hop music, but pop music and country music have their fare share of violence masquerading as manliness. Stroll into any video game store and you will find violent games everywhere you turn. Turn on the TV, check out a movie, it is all the same. Violence is totally normalized in our society. Now, I’m not blaming pop culture for violence. It is a merely a reflection of our values and simply put, as men, we tend to value the macho. We tend to associate strength with violence instead of character.
Yesterday’s tragedy struck me as particularly awful because of the loss of young life. As President Obama said, “They had their entire lives ahead of them — birthdays, graduations, weddings, kids of their own.” We have to do better in their memory. We have to stop turning to violence and anger as our first response. We have to counsel the value of compassion and understanding.
Adam Lanza was not born wanting to kill. He was not born set on robbing children of a future and others of their innocence. When his mother had him, he was a precious gift of life. She never imagined that he would grow up to take her’s and his own.
If children are not safe in our schools, if youth are not safe on the streets, if our malls are turned into shooting galleries and our movie theaters turned into death traps, it is time for us to take a harsh look in the mirror.