All about ideas…

Is Newtown Our Dream of the Future?

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Firearms for saleThe deaths of 20 youngsters – near babies – has effected the entire nation. We easily imagine homes lit up for the holidays in celebration of the birth of the Prince of Peace or the Festival of Lights. Garlands and wreaths scenting the air. Children’s stockings adoring mantles. Christmas trees twinkling with lights and sparkling with ornaments. And nestled beneath the trees lay presents for innocent, bright eyed toddlers.

But this Christmas, 20 of those toddlers will not open their presents or sleep happily in their beds or awaken to put on new Christmas outfits. This Christmas, the parents of those toddlers will see only what might have been and mourn the loss of their babies.

Many of us imagine, in that tragedy, how we would feel if one of those tiny lost lives had been our children or grandchildren. Would living have much meaning for us anymore? This was not God’s will via a disease but a rampage caused by a violent, sickened society that shrugs off violence and death as easily as one shrugs off the loss of a monopoly game. Is this the hallmark of a civilized society?

I am amongst the earliest born Boomers. As a military brat, I was raised all over the country: north, south, east, west and in-between. As a kid, where ever we lived, the entire community looked out for us kids. We could walk to school, play in the parks and fields, go for hikes in the woods, and bike downtown in safety. No one carried firearms. Shootings were unknown. We were safe and secure within communities that agreed guns were for hunting only.

To that degree, mass killings were so rare that my memory fails to recall any until Kent State.

But that all changed with the ethos of “me first and only.” Somewhere along the way, as a nation, we forgot to exercise and teach to our children the concepts of personal responsibility, respect and consideration of others, and treating all others as we wish to be treated. Since the ’80s, the “greed is good, me first and to heck with anyone else ” ethos has grown only stronger and more prevalent. Combined with a “war forever” ideology and a culture that openly seeks Roman gladiator-type entertainment of conflict, raucousness, and violence as well as the social isolation created within many bedrooms communities where most people hardly know their neighbors, that failed modern day ethos has led to a massive breakdown in our society. Worse, the defunding of mental health social services and restrictive laws regarding seeking help for the mentally unbalanced and destructive have only made it harder to stop the violence.

I know. Before my younger brother committed suicide 20 years ago with a legally purchased handgun, I sought help for him only to be told there was nothing I could do. There was nothing we as a family could do to get him psychiatric help or prevent him from buying a gun. He was not even 50 when he fatally shot himself, leaving his wife and son to clean up the bloody mess.

Of course, other breakdowns presently exist which exacerbate the present and violent situation, from rapid globalization with our consequential failure to re-educate workers with new, employable skills to failing to providing social services for families in transition that cause broken families and make it harder to get out of poverty, and the need for help regarding the reduction of worker incomes that increasingly force workers to supplement their incomes with social services or to determine whether meager social services incomes offer higher income security than working. How can anyone choose a lesser income when children need to be fed, clothed and housed?

If we don’t end the ethos that we each are an island unto ourselves and regain the dane law idea of the commons and commonweal that existed not only in Early to Early Modern Britain but also in early New England and much of our westward expansion, I’m not sure the US will continue to be a major OECD power. States rights and individualism per libertarianism sound great, but they are more mantras than working theses for a cohesive modern republic.

We are one nation, one people, indivisible.

The Greatest Generation learned to understand that idea during the Second World War, when rich and poor and all ethnicities and religions, fought side by side to retain the idea of liberty against a fascism and oppression that pitted one approved segment of society against all others.

That’s not to say that individual members of that generation did not hold fast to their old beliefs, but by and large that generation made possible the expanded civil rights we celebrate today. Moreover, that generation educated the nation, built our industries and our communities, fostered new innovation including the internet, and granted both equality and rights for all because of the mass, class leveling experience they endured during the War…and because they deeply understood the horrors of killing.

As I said, my Dad was a GI. He was a WWII vet and retired as a USAF Master Sergeant after 20 years. He flew missions, as a flight engineer, over North Africa during the War. Two of my other uncles were in the USAF, flying missions over Germany. One of those two died shortly after the War ended in a hunting accident when he was mistaken for a deer. Another uncle died when his ship was sunk in the Pacific. My family is no stranger to death. Nevertheless, when my dad bought a rifle and shotgun in New Hampshire for hunting, he taught my brothers and me how to shoot them. But he made sure we understood that guns were not playthings for fun, games and recreation including the now popular sport of target shooting. To him and much his generation who had endured the killing fields of the War, guns were not toys.

He demanded, on pain of severe punishment, that we never, ever touched them on our own. I still have no idea where he hid the ammunition or if he ever had any in the house. I believe the proliferation of recreational shooting ranges would have evoked a string of expletives from him. This from a man who had a life long adherence to the Republican Party, hailed from KKK dominated segregationist Missouri in the ’30s (his dad was a member of the Missouri KKK in the ’30s), rode the rails as a teenager during the Depression, and falsified his birth records to join the Army – then joined the Army Air Corp – at 16.

My attitudes towards gun are the same as my dad’s: they are okay for hunting but beyond that it’s silly foolishness. I can hear my dad now: “These idiots and their make believe gun playing on shooting ranges don’t know a damned thing about guns and killing. They should all be drafted. They’d soon learn what guns are all about. What a bunch of a-holes!”

As for his view of the Second Amendment, he’d say “Yeah, we have the right to own guns for hunting. But anyone who believes our government is going to pull some fascist crap like Germany did is an idiot.”

Regarding the NRA, to which he never belonged, he’d say “It’s a stupid organization that suckers people out of their money to make the leaders rich and their members damned idiots. The whole damned bunch of them should be drafted! Then they’d learn a thing or two about guns and killing.”

Tonight and every night I will go to bed thankful that my young grandchildren are alive and healthy. I will thank God that no deranged killer with access to firearms put them in his sights. But if this new, horrific tragedy should have any lasting meaning, it must be that gun safety and security for our families, our communities and most of all for our children must take precedence over our desire to own firearms.


Written by Valerie Curl

December 17, 2012 at 9:09 AM

Posted in NRA, Politics

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