It’s taken me a week to wrap my heart around what happened at Sandy Hook Elementary. I say my heart because my head is still slogging through the facts and reactions to the facts, trying to apply logic and reason to it. That’s how I cope but my heart tells me it won’t work this time. There’s no logical, rational way to deal with the grief of losing a child. I know because my parents lost their son when he was a few years younger than the kids at Sandy Hook. It twisted and contorted their lives, destroyed their faith in any kind of God, changed forever their expectations for my sister and me and transformed their marriage into one of blame and denial. And all that because of an accidental death at home, under the wheels of the family truck. Nobody walked in on a Friday morning and riddled my little brother with bullets – on purpose. I can’t imagine the burden that difference will add to the grief of twenty-six families in Connecticut this Christmas.
In our family, the first few holidays after John died were torment for my parents. Every cheery Christmas card in the mail reminded them that the rest of the world had gone on with their lives when ours had been ripped apart and left shattered forever. It will be like that for those families in Connecticut, only worse.
Their children were killed on purpose and they will have to listen to talk radio show hosts defend the rest of the country’s right to bear arms and repeat simplistic clichés like “guns don’t kill people, people kill people.”
Their children were killed on purpose by a mentally ill young man exactly the age when schizophrenia and other mental illnesses attack the brains of thousands of young men. And yet this country largely abandoned affordable, widespread access to mental health care in the 80s.
Their children were killed on purpose by a young man who played violent video games that have created a generation of young men desensitized to blood and gore and pain and suffering. But they will be told there isn’t direct evidence that video game violence translates to the real world.
My parent’s lives never returned to normal after the death of their son. The rest of the world moved on and seemed to forget. That process will begin for the families in Connecticut on Christmas, and it will be infinitely worse if we move on, after an initial outpouring of support, because we’re told nothing could have prevented what happened.
That was true in my brother’s case. His was a truly accidental death. Blame could not be assigned; remedies could not be taken. When kids are killed by guns it is never an accident and there is everything to do about it. There are some truths that don’t need statistics or studies to prove. There are times when waiting for evidence is just the brain ignoring the heart and the soul. Sometimes you have to do what your heart says is right, without the support of others or numbers or comforting data. I’m signing on as one of Senator Diane Feinstein’s citizen bill sponsors for legislation to control automatic weapons. But that’s not enough. I’m not sure how but I know that I have to find a way to advocate for mental health research and affordable treatment for all who need it and I will speak the truth to commerce when it results in violent video games. We in the creative community have to find ways to entertain and reach young men in ways that don’t desensitize them to violence. This may be the issue that women can come together and truly make a difference. We don’t have to wait for politicians to catch up and pass laws; we can exert moral and economic pressure on our own.
Finally, my head feels like it’s catching up to my heart.