Shootings in Connecticut Puts Our Collective Backs to the WallBy
For eight years, every Saturday, I have pumped out 1,000+ words about pastimes—kids games played by grown-up millionaires. I have mused about the merits of the Lions’ latest draft, the Tigers’ latest free agent signing, the Pistons’ latest implosion, the Red Wings’ latest Stanley Cup.
Not this Saturday.
This Saturday, there won’t be any hand-wringing over the NHL’s (latest) lockout. There won’t be any fussing about another Lions season gone wrong. No analysis about whether the Tigers should have committed $80 million to a pitcher. No unsolicited solutions to all that ails the Pistons.
What does any of that matter, when 20 precious children woke up, went to school, and ended up being carried out of their classrooms in body bags?
For many, sports is a diversion—a way to unplug, for 2-3 hours, the cord that connects us to our troubled lives. We shove our money problems, our marriage troubles, and our job worries to the back burner, so we can yell and scream at the TV and bring our sports teams’ troubles to the fore. Sometimes the logic seems ill, actually.
But it’s not real life, in the strictest definition. The drama is played out on the field, or on the ice, or on the hardwood. At the end there is a winner and there is a loser but none of it really matters.
Even Reggie Jackson, who didn’t meet a spotlight he didn’t like, once tried to put sports in perspective.
“I was reminded that when we lose and I strike out, a billion people in China don’t care,” Reggie said.
Sports is a diversion, but even that is kind of disingenuous to say. The line between sports and real life is being blurred, almost daily. The off-the-court, off-the-field, off-the ice news is capturing a larger slice of the information pie. Sports isn’t, any longer, just about hitting a curve or sacking the quarterback. It’s not just about how to defend the pick-and-roll or getting the puck out of your own zone.
They used to do a lot of killing in sports, but it was all figurative.
Kill the umpire! Kill a penalty. Kill the clock.
Lately, as we’ve seen with recent incidents involving players of the Kansas City Chiefs and Dallas Cowboys, they’re killing people for real.
But on this day we don’t look to sports to divert us. The games go on, but today we are glued to our TV sets, tied to the Internet, frantically searching for answers that may never come, to a one-word question.
That three-letter word starts so many of our queries.
Why did a 20-year-old young man kill his mother? Why did he then drive to the school where she reportedly worked, and gun down the principal and a school psychologist?
And, the biggest “Why?” of them all.
Why did this young man, reportedly identified as Adam Lanza, march into a classroom and start shooting grade schoolers?
Why did his mother have such powerful weapons registered in her name, to which Lanza had access? Why didn’t anyone see this coming?
After the why come the next big questions, and those all start with “How?”
How will the parents of the dead children cope? How will the parents of the surviving children ever hope to re-instill a sense of security in their kids? How will the town of Newtown, Connecticut, a small burg of about 27,000 people (not unlike the size of Madison Heights, where I live), manage to carry on after the slaughter that occurred in their town?
You want to keep sports in this discussion, in an allegorical way?
Well, here it is.
The country has hit its two-minute warning. But it needs to get the football back from the gun lobbies before it can mount a game-winning rally.
We’re out of timeouts, too.
White House Press Secretary Jay Carney said in the wake of the news of the shootings that “today isn’t the day” to talk about gun control. Someone should remind Carney that we have no timeouts remaining.
If the day to talk about gun control isn’t the day in which 20 of our babies are shot dead, sitting at their desks in a kindergarten class, then we’ll never have that talk.
The nightmare in Connecticut has pushed us to the brink. Our backs are against the wall and all that sports rot. The gun violence keeps getting worse, backing us closer to that wall. It wasn’t bad enough after Columbine, apparently. Wasn’t bad enough after a Congresswoman was gunned down at a public appearance.
We edged closer to the wall after the theater shooting in Aurora, Colorado. And even closer, after the mall shooting in Oregon, just this week.
Now 20 little boys and girls are dead. If this doesn’t cause us to start kicking, clawing and scratching, trying to fight our way back from the edge of insanity, then the clock will run out and the game will be over.
For decades, the gun people have put all their chips on “Guns don’t kill people, people kill people.” It’s a rallying cry that lacks common sense and immediately puts blinders on those who utter it.
It’s catchy, I grant you that. It’s also true in the most literal sense. A Glock or an assault rifle won’t, of course, kill someone if no one takes hold of it, aims it, and pulls the trigger. You got me there.
But people with guns kill people. Why doesn’t the gun camp think that’s as catchy?
Get ready for the argument of, “If only someone at the school was armed, then a lot of lives might have been saved.”
The old OK Corral argument. The notion that, like in the movies, a hero will draw his weapon, and pick off the bad guy with one shot, with no possible chance of collateral damage or stray bullets striking and killing others.
You think that’s really how it would go down if everyone walked around with a pistol on their hip? Or is it more likely that more people might choose to go for their weapons to “solve” problems, in a horrific moment of indiscretion?
Is the way to put out a fire, to throw more fire at it?
We’re at the two-minute warning. We have no more timeouts remaining. We need the ball back. The situation is just that dire.
We can’t put off the rally any longer. Twenty babies are dead. If that’s not a game changer, then we’re doomed.