No Matter Who Intends Otherwise
by Elliott Stonecipher
Our words yet fail. December 14th last. Though no longer surprised by these atrocities, we knew in a moment this one might prove worse than most, and heartbreakingly so. Our forever reference to it will simply be the name of its thus violated place, “Newtown.” It is added to an ungodly national roster: Dallas and Memphis and Oklahoma City and 9/11 and Columbine and Aurora and Boston, and others. As we know to admit, there are more to come.
In America we pick and speak one-word wheres and whens to mark the most awful of our horrors on native ground. These are kind of HOLLYWOOD signs on the high hilltops of our minds, standing above and alone, dramatic places and times when our life shifts on its axis, never again to properly turn.
We tend to take care with this code of outrage and loss lest we loose memories and images more painful than its utility requires. “Dallas” need not be “Dealy Plaza,” and “Oklahoma City” need not be “the Murrah Building,” and, now, “Newtown” is sufficient without reference to “Sandy Hook.”
Our brain deals with Newtown as it so well and dependably knows how. Its available space in our memory file inexorably fills. We think about it less as the media’s wall-to-wall imagery fades and fails to remind. Some of us, though, resist as we follow the political manipulation attached to, and dependent upon, the nightmare. When I wrote about it two days after, here is how I saw and felt it then, and still feel and see it now:
“… These victims of something which seems to be eating away at our country were 20 American babies, 6- and 7-years-old. We now know their names, and have seen many of their pictured faces and smiles, and some of their crying and devastated moms and dads and grandparents and friends. Taken along with them by the gunman’s hundred-plus bullets were 6 adults who are paid to teach and counsel and nurse them and administer their school. When his bullets finally flew no more, 20-year-old Adam Lanza had opened this demonstration of human evil with the killing of his mother, closed it by killing himself, and filled-in the middle with a time-freezing rampage as awful in its own way as any America has known.”
“… From what I hear, see and read, America is a nation aware that we are in unusual trouble. We care, yet we cannot find our way to solutions to our problems, some of which may be so corrosive as to prove existential. In such times throughout our history, our leaders have ultimately done what they are elected to do: they lead. (Any) absence of that leadership is, I believe, the key …”
It was four-plus months later before the nation’s reaction could be fairly judged. That was the day President Obama spoke from the White House Rose Garden. He was, as many on site reported, PO’d. While anger was certainly justified after those months of down-and-dirty politicking in the name of Newtown, the blame he assessed was precisely misplaced. Mr. Obama and many followers had worked long and hard to turn this grief into just one more crummy political exercise. To most Americans, the hyped and frenzied hoorah was partisan times twenty, or fifty. The President’s fire-when-ready army laid claim to an unspeakable chapter from the lives of Newtown victims and published it in quick and cheap paperback.
In opposition to how it all apparently seems to the President, in the heartland it was jarringly, distressingly disrespectful to those who had lost so much; those who had lost incalculably more than most of us allow ourselves to conceive. Regardless, we heard the President’s chastisement from the Rose Garden:
“All in all, this was a pretty shameful day for Washington, but this effort is not over. … Instead of supporting this compromise, the guy lobby and their allies willfully lied about this bill.”
Such a proclamation rests comfortably within these words I wrote two days after Newtown:
” … While many will quickly issue polemics about guns and their control, or individual rights and their violation, Newtown is far, far more than a stage set yet again for the same old same old political yammering. …”
Yes, the President’s four-month campaign has been, to many of us, shameful, and a true clinic in yammering. Consequently, the political loss suffered by the President and his party is as ugly as it is confirmation of his hubris.
Of course, the NRA marched through the issue and its politics as expected, giving many of us more than enough to regret. The NRA, though, did not pick this fight, no matter how desperately the haters of guns and their owners holler to convince us it did.
As I watched and heard Mr. Obama’s unrighteous indignation, I immediately thought of words spoken by Rahm Emanuel, the President’s Tonto, in a Wall Street Journal interview just after the President’s 2008 election:
“You never want a serious crisis to go to waste. … This crisis provides the opportunity for us to do things that you could not do before.”
Precisely. Newtown’s horror ginned-up a mere partisan political moment, seized by a set of those who live to exploit anything and everything that politically twitches. They used the parents’ grief before healing was as little as a hope, and stood usable first-responders as backdrops for photo ops.
A crisis too good to waste. Yet, because the better angels of American natures always outnumber dark artists, it backfired. In rebuking his enemies, President Obama kicked at a phantom dog, ignoring his failure to lead all of America.
Newtown. Sandy Hook. Until death, when I hear either, I will see the twenty beaming and angelic faces of those so loved and lost. What I will never see is the face of even one person who exploited their deaths.
Elliott Stonecipher’s reports and commentaries are written strictly in the public interest, with no compensation of any kind solicited or accepted. Appropriate credit to Mr. Stonecipher in the unedited sharing of his work is requested and appreciated.