By GORDON GLANTZ
GORDONVILLE — Sofia is a playing an angel in her school’s Christmas pageant. Always the performer, she turned our home into a playhouse, and has used the pending occasion to practice the song and dance routine repeatedly.
But it wasn’t until the other night – as she was singing “Silent Night” and busting ballet moves in her angel outfit, complete with wings and halo – that a bitter irony struck me.
The pageant practically coincides with the one-year anniversary of the mass shooting at Sandy Hook Elementary School in Newtown, Conn. that left 26 people dead.
Twenty of those victims were first-graders huddled together in a corner of their classroom.
Sofia is now in first grade herself.
Sorry if it hits home, but it hits home.
Just like the parents of those once-living angels who never saw 2013’s Christmas, or Hanukkah, I drive her to school each morning and make sure to say “I love you” and get a goodbye kiss before she exits. And my day isn’t complete until she is back in my car, safe and sound, and begins telling me about the happenings of her day with her teen-like verbiage oddly coupled with a baby voice.
And when Sofia and her fellow angels sing “Silent Night,” it will be hard not to think of those other angels from Newtown and the sentiment that they will “sleep in heavenly peace.”
There will be commemorations all across America on Saturday’s marking point of the nation’s 31st – yes, 31st – school shooting since Columbine in 1999, and many will include moments of silence for the victims.
But the silence on gun control – and the powerful stranglehold that the NRA maintains on our weapon-entranced culture – should have ended a year ago.
If that wasn’t the definitive line in the sand, a call to begin fighting back, then what is?
Yes, there had been mass shootings before that begged for change.
But Newtown – maybe because of the time, place and age of victims – seemed to have “last straw” stamped on its ugly face.
The clock had struck midnight in America.
The time seemed right to stay vigilant through the darkness and celebrate a new dawn.
The president, who had not done anything but “try to take your guns away” in his first term, laid down the gauntlet with 23 executive actions, including the CDC doing an about-face on a short-sighted act of Congress calling on the Centers for Disease Control to cease and desist putting the scourge of gun violence under its objective microscope.
The result? Nothing.
Once again – against the will of “we the people” (91 percent of voters support background checks on prospective gun owners, according to a Quinnipiac poll) – those inside the beltway, who are protected by secret service agents, decided to place it on the back-burner and dare to look parents in the eye.
What was a cursory baby step toward sane gun control was shot down by our leaders in Washington, D.C. in a cruel-and-calculated way that more or less exceeded what happened in Newtown, Conn.
People still can’t believe something like that can happen in an upscale New England town.
I still can’t believe something like what happened in response could happen in Congress.
The current year has been just as bloody. Lowlights include 13 being gunned down in a D.C. Navy Yard in September and six school employees at a Santa Monica Junior College in June.
What does or doesn’t make headlines and lead the nation news broadcasts on a given day is an inexact science. Let us not forget six killed in July in Hialeah, Fla. in July or five in Manchester, Ill. (by the nephew of the local mayor) in April or the spree in upstate New York by a 64-year-old who took six lives.
It would be safe to say that the full year since last Dec. 14 has been a silent night.
A long, cold and sleepless one.
“Our lives begin to end the day we become silent about the things that matter,” said Martin Luther King., Jr.
To heed these words, we need to begin standing together and making a noise so loud that our elected leaders will realize that they will be out of work if they choose not to listen.
Newtown has jarred some modicum of progress. Individual states, some which previously had pathetic gun laws, have enacted measures. But without top-down legislation, it’s too shoddy. It’s no surprise that there is a correlation between higher rates of gun deaths and those assigned failing grades by the Law Center to Prevent Violence.
In a clash of titans, the NFL seems to be willing to butt heads with the NRA, as it has refused to accept pro-gun blood money to run ads promoting firearm ownership for the sake of self-protection.
The American Association of Pediatricians, in a recent survey, supported legislative action.
There has been the formation of grassroots groups, several of which I follow on Facebook and repost – much to the annoyance of my gun-toting friends – on my page.
This is a great first step, but these groups – with the exception of the NFL — remain mice fighting gorillas.
All the logical arguments to work toward gun control meet with responses ranging from the sublime to the ridiculous, and from the ignorant to the arrogant.
Common right-wing retort: It is more about addressing mental health than guns.
OK, honestly – and I don’t mean to sound harsh — how do we police every person with issues who may have skipped his meds, let alone all those who go temporarily insane and act on impulse with a gun close at hand.
Here’s a classic: It is impossible to do anything about it.
So … that means do nothing?
That means Nelson Mandela, who said, “it’s always impossible until it’s done,” had it wrong but you “defenders of freedom” – in your infinite wisdom — have it right?
And they like this one: Cars kill more people than guns do, and you don’t want to ban all cars, do ya?
First of all, while my utopian world would be gun-free, no one is talking about banning guns. We are advocating dialing it down a notch from it being the Wild West of yore in the 21st century.
There are, as there should be, a litany of safeguards against the type of driving that takes lives. On top of that, measures are taken to keep safe vehicles on the road. Law enforcement is empowered to make the roads safer.
And, secondly, there are thousands upon thousands of vehicles on the road each day. A miniscule percentage of drivers are looking to do harm, as stupid as they are at times. It’s not apples to apples.
So how do you like them apples?
And they might counter: I am a responsible gun owner. Why should I be penalized?
If you are a responsible gun owner, you won’t be penalized under any of the proposed baby steps toward saving babies.
And there is this old standby: It’s the law. It’s in the Second Amendment. It’s what the founding fathers wanted.
The founding fathers came from a different place and time when they advocated gun ownership. If they could see what is going on in their name, they would be heartbroken.
If they wouldn’t be, they are no one I care to admire.
According to USA Today, there have been more than 200 mass killings (four or more victims) since 2006, which is an average of one every two weeks. That is a conservative estimate, as the exact number is curiously underreported by the FBI (considered 61 percent accurate).
The same article revealed that a third of the victims are under the age of 18.
In the last year, since the unspeakable tragedy at Newtown, 194 children (defined as being under the age of 12) have been killed by guns, according to MotherJones.com.
And the average age per victim was 6, same as Sofia.
Our country leads the world with this dubious distinction, and that rate is four times that of Canada, which is second. It is a rate 65 times greater than Britain or Germany.
In keeping with the holiday season, let’s put it another way.
That’s a whole lot of angels prevented – via a silent night – from sleeping in heavenly peace.
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