Response to Newtown Tragedy

As a parent, I cannot imagine a deeper sorrow than losing a child.

It is unfathomable that almost five months since the loss of life in Aurora, CO, our nation is mourning a mass killing spree horror again.

I speak of the school shooting 30 miles north of my home, in Newtown CT, which is officially the 2nd worst school shooting in our nation’s history. Here on the East Coast, the terrible burden has been even greater, because we are not yet recovered from Superstorm Sandy.

But what has made the heartbreak even more unbearable is that there are human beings that are either inappropriately responding to, or reporting on, this tragedy. I am referring to the NY Times email blast headline that awaited me in my inbox this weekend:

Children Were All Shot Multiple Times With a Semiautomatic, Officials Say

Why is that a necessary or appropriate headline? It is hard enough to discuss this newest, horrific chapter in our history with my two children (whom I have not wanted out of my sight since it happened) without having to worry that they will see a headline like this. Earlier, after escaping from my intermittent tears with a peaceful afternoon movie, I took them to Starbucks. I sent them to find seats so they did not have a chance to accidentally bump into the stand with NY Times prominently displaying this garish headline.

I know it’s news – and a topic that will not soon be forgotten. My personal coping mechanism has been to mostly avoid reading the newspapers or watching the news. Nonetheless, news travels and through a friend I learned that one of the teachers who lost her life was the daughter of town residents. And one of the deceased children was the young cousin of a colleague.

But even if you didn’t know any of the victim’s families, you’d be hard pressed to find anyone not affected by this monstrous demonstration of evil in our midst. You’d have to be inhuman not to have been affected . . . or so I wish to believe. It is hard for me to fathom why one the most well respected news outlets of our age, the esteemed Grey Lady, deemed it appropriate to print such a gruesome, detailed headline.

Adding insult to that injury, is what I witnessed on the streets of NYC yesterday; swarms of Millennials clad in sundry Santa garb caroused the streets of Manhattan in celebration of Drunk Santa Day. Have you heard of it?

What started by a Danish activist theatre group gathering in 1978 is supposed to be a well meaning “non-denominational… and non-sensical” mass gathering (think flash mob without the dancing and the addition of alcohol).

However, at some point, it morphed into an organized pub crawl along a specific route to avoid, or at least cut down on, potential public disturbances and the breaking of urination laws. Oh yes, that well represents the meaning of Christ’s birth.

I’m not a Bah-humbug type in the slightest, but it seems to me that in light of an incident that took place only 24 hours before, a modicum of respect would be in order. Sadly, my mindset was not shared by the milling throngs dressed scantily, irreverently and haphazardly who took to the city streets for one purpose and one purpose only – to get totally, unapologetically trashed and to stay that way for as many hours as possible.

The event began at 10am on Pier 84 and continued from 7:30pm at Santa’s “after-party” at Drigg’s Avenue.

As I write this, a live memorial service, featuring our President, is taking place in Newtown, CT. Truthfully, I am finding it very hard not to be judgmental about the exploitation on one hand of some of the media, and the ignorance of the drunk Santa’s on the other. We lost 20 children and 6 teachers. We lost a mother whose gun enthusiasm created the opportunity for her 20 year old’s son inexplicable rampage.

I am struggling just a bit to understand where I fit as a spiritual being having, once again, a painful, human experience. Maybe that’s the point. Perhaps this insanity is meant to create a more compassionate sanity in the world. After all, is there a greater catalyst for transformation, change and healing than pain?

As the Festival of Lights is ending, the Winter Solstice is approaching, a miracle birth is about to be celebrated, and the Mayan calendar is ending, I am reaching for meaning, comfort and understanding. Whatever your purpose or politics, whether you seek to rally against the NRA or want to arrange and attend ecumenical prayer services, I pray that there is a coming together, a shift for us all to a better place, a happier time and a more sustainable future for us all.

May the light of the souls who we lost in Newtown, CT forever be a beacon allowing us to push our way through this temporary darkness. May we always remember the principal, guidance counselor and young, beautiful teachers who gave their lives defending those children.

May we always remember the children. Those brave, innocent, young, precious, loved, cherished, babies, who have left this life offering us the chance to feel compassion, love and benevolence when every fiber of our being is crying out in rage, fury and disbelief.

So it is the children who, once again, are our greatest teachers. And our greatest gift.
Let light, love and wisdom follow them where ever they are.

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