Across America this morning, parents dropped their kids at school, the bus stop or with early morning caretakers and proceeded with their day just as they did yesterday and the day before that and the day before that.
At our own school, we held a special program. As has become annual tradition, House Minority Whip Steny Hoyer came to sit patiently and listen to our kids sing holiday songs. He does not represent our district, but our school bears his late wife’s name, and he never fails to make a December appearance. In fact, when his schedule would not permit him to attend the actual performance next week, he came today instead to watch dress rehearsal. He got on one knee with a gaggle of pre-kindergardeners to cut the ceremonial ribbon for our “new” (to us) school building. He laughed. He clapped. He addressed the kids, not the adults, and told them teachers are the most important people in a society. He was warm to one and all and appeared to be genuinely entertained.
I left school with warm happy feelings for my kids’ school, our community spirit and a driven PTA that makes being that organization’s president a pretty easy job. (As my friend Chuck whispered to me during the performance, “it’s amazing what a PTA can do when it’s run by a bunch of alphas.”)
I learned about the horrible news of what happened in Newtown, Connecticut not from NPR but Twitter. My first reaction was jaded. Another mass shooting. This is America. It seems to happen every other week. Then the details emerged. An elementary school. Scores of young kids shot and killed. The horror of it all quickly sunk in. As I came home to my own elementary-aged kids tonight, I thought of those parents who will never walk in the door to be greeted by hugs and kisses. I thought of the kids who are not tucked into their beds tonight. Most of them kindergardeners. And I felt helpless.
There’s so much that’s wrong that it’s hard to imagine getting our nation back on course. We need to better address mental health issues, for sure. But we also need stronger gun control. I believe in the Second Amendment. But to say it’s outdated seems like an understatement.
I’d like to think as a nation we could have an honest debate about guns. But you can already see the polarization occurring on that great social indicator, Facebook. When Jack asked tonight, “why doesn’t Congress just make a law that you can’t have the types of guns that are only designed to kill people, not to hunt?” I didn’t have an answer. Deep down, I don’t think our government takes this moment to debate gun policy anymore than they’ve signaled a willingness to address climate change post Super Storm Sandy. As they have become so adept at doing, they will kick the can down the road until the next tragedy strikes.