I am, quite simply, in mourning.
I don't know how long this feeling will last. It may never leave me, just as the memory my father's death pushes itself to the front of my mind from time to time.
I was looking at myself in the mirror. I noticed that I needed to take the clippers to my hair, and it was time to trim my beard. But I just didn't have the will to attend to my grooming. It seemed so frivolous, so useless, so unimportant.
I haven't had to mourn for a long time, not since the death of my grandparents two decades ago. I'm unused to it. It calls up feelings long dormant. And the overwhelming sadness is almost impossible to bear.
And I'm not in mourning solely for those innocent children, lives snuffed out brutally and evilly. I mourn for this nation.
The shootings in Newtown were new in degree, but not in kind. We are swept with grief because the victims were so young, their bodies scythed like unripe wheat, their promise broken before it had even been formed.
But this is a nation and culture awash in violence.
Violent movies sail through the rating's board with almost no problems. Sexual content engenders contortions to achieve an R rating. Violence is an accepted part of the culture; life-affirming sex is to be hidden.
Our video games become more violent, instilling in their players the notion that violence is nothing but a game, and can be rectified by a reset. Of course, most gamers don't become mass killers. But there's still this idea that violence is an entertainment, even if a virtual one. The killing of another human being was fodder for the populace of the Roman Empire. We haven't evolved that much in the intervening 2,000 years.
Western culture was formed by hundreds of years of violence. Today, Europe is sailing away from that violent past, or at least making every effort to do so. But the United States, like a petulant teenager sure in its own immortality, clings to notions which will not serve it in the 21st century.
And even that blanket condemnation is unfair. For example, this is what NRA members believe:
Here are some more ways the NRA represents responsible firearm owners. 74 percent of registered National Rifle Association (NRA) members support requiring criminal background checks of anyone purchasing a gun. 71 percent of registered NRA members believe individuals on the terrorist watch list should not be able to purchase firearms. 74 percent of registered NRA members believe CCW permits should only be granted to applicants who have completed gun safety training. The NRA opposes all three of the mentioned common-sense regulations, in spite of those regulations having support from an overwhelming majority of responsible gun owners.It's an old story: self-appointed "spokesmen" ignore the positions of the people for whom supposedly they speak. The NRA leadership is out of step with its own membership. But if the membership doesn't speak up, doesn't speak out against this culture of violent impunity, it is as complicit in the massacre in Newtown as Wayne LaPierre.
We have to fight against the men—and women—with guns, the ones who think that everyone should have a gun on them at all times. The men with guns have too loud a voice. Their fears seep into out culture. They are the minority, but their influence is outsized, because those of us who disagree with them do nothing, whether out of fear or ennui.
If you are an NRA member reading this, and you are one of those NRA members who believe that there needs to be sensible gun regulation, don't sit silently. Stand up. Make your voice heard. Eject the radical leadership which wishes to turn this country into an armed camp, where we are all a law unto ourselves.
As President Obama constantly says, we are the change for which we've waited. Now is the time to call, email, tweet, compose well-thought out letters. Shame those who represent us for allowing this country to allow weapons to proliferate like mushrooms after a rain. Obama is a great man, but he's just a man. He can't fight the entrenched interests in a Congress festering with NRA contributions by himself. He will lead, but we have to create the mass movement to sweep over the Congress, to make our representatives know that we are watching, that we are horrified, that we've had enough and this time this horror won't be allowed to recede into the memory hole.
Children go to school every day afraid for their lives. Schools across the country have metal detectors at their entrances to prevent the infiltration of guns. This is not right. This is not just. This is not the hallmark of a civilized country.
The guns have to be controlled. That's the immediate task. But after that, the culture of violence, the glorification of it has to be upended. Peace has to be taught, nurtured, reinforced, made the cornerstone of our society. Sometimes violence is justified. Sometimes violence is unavoidable. But it should never be extolled as a virtue, as a commonplace, as a right.
I'm in mourning, as we all are. But, for the sake of these martyred children, and everyone who dies a violent death every day from the gun, we cannot stay in mourning. We honor their memories by action. Nothing else will suffice.