Phrases I don’t want to hear anymore:
Shocked and saddened.
Thoughts and prayers.
Our hearts go out to…
I know, I know — not everyone is gifted with the language, and these phrases are simply what we say in particular situations, like “pleased to meet you” and “I’ve had a lovely time.” But let’s at least admit that they mean nothing anymore. Not when you see them in places where they don’t belong, at a time when the only sane response is silence, or, failing that, a full-throated scream.
Someone in Newt Gingrich’s office, in Sarah Palin’s office, thought something needed to be said, and so they said that. My advice would have been to keep their yaps shut. But here I am, yapping, so what the hell. It’s a free country.
For whatever it’s worth, I don’t know that I have anything to add, other than to note some things you should read, if you haven’t. A lot of these have been widely linked, but what the hell, not everybody lives on the internet these days:
Garry Wills, “Our Moloch.” Elegant, spare and as incisive as a shiv:
The gun is not a mere tool, a bit of technology, a political issue, a point of debate. It is an object of reverence. Devotion to it precludes interruption with the sacrifices it entails. Like most gods, it does what it will, and cannot be questioned. Its acolytes think it is capable only of good things. It guarantees life and safety and freedom. It even guarantees law. Law grows from it. Then how can law question it?
“It is an object of reverence.” You got that right.
The most complete and concise single account of what happened in those 10 minutes that I’ve yet seen, from the Hartford Courant. A very tough read. This was the worst of it:
Lanza next arrived at teacher Victoria Soto’s classroom. Soto is believed to have hidden her 6- and 7-year old students in a classroom closet. When Lanza demanded to know where the children were, Soto tried to divert him to the other end of the school by saying that her students were in the auditorium.
But six of Soto’s students tried to flee. Lanza shot them, Soto and another teacher who was in the room. Later, in their search for survivors, police found the remaining seven of Soto’s students still hiding in the closet. They told the police what had happened.
…Police investigators were still stunned Saturday by the scene they encountered at the school a day earlier, in particular by the seven surviving — but shocked — children hiding silently in the closet in Soto’s classroom.
“Finally, they opened that door and there were seven sets of eyes looking at them,” a law enforcement officer familiar with the events said Saturday. “She tried to save her class” he said of Victoria Soto.
And I’m sure nearly everyone has seen this by now, “Thinking the Unthinkable,” another very tough read by a mother of a boy who sounds very much like Adam Lanza.
I am sharing this story because I am Adam Lanza’s mother. I am Dylan Klebold’s and Eric Harris’s mother. I am Jason Holmes’s mother. I am Jared Loughner’s mother. I am Seung-Hui Cho’s mother. And these boys—and their mothers—need help. In the wake of another horrific national tragedy, it’s easy to talk about guns. But it’s time to talk about mental illness.
And finally, we should end on a note of at least something resembling our better angels. The president’s speech Friday:
“This evening, Michelle and I will do what I know every parent in America will do, which is hug our children a little tighter, and we’ll tell them that we love them, and we’ll remind each other how deeply we love one another. But there are families in Connecticut who cannot do that tonight, and they need all of us right now. In the hard days to come, that community needs us to be at our best as Americans, and I will do everything in my power as president to help, because while nothing can fill the space of a lost child or loved one, all of us can extend a hand to those in need, to remind them that we are there for them, that we are praying for them, that the love they felt for those they lost endures not just in their memories, but also in ours.”
We need to be at our best as Americans. So let’s see if we do that.