December 14, 2012

Sometimes They Win

"Monsters are real, and ghosts are real too. They live inside us, and sometimes, they win." ― Stephen King

Years from now, looking back on this blog post, will it be enough simply to refer to the events in Newtown, Connecticut for the reader to know what I'm talking about? WIll it become shorthand, like Columbine? Or will we as a society have become so numb to these kinds of events that they become a grey blur in our memories? One more helicopter angle looking down on a deserted school, one more scene with cops walking in and out of a building that could very easily be my own daughter's school, except for the police tape.

If you're reading this in the future and don't remember what happened today in Newtown, Connecticut, I hope you'll Google it. All those people who died, the teachers and all those children, they deserve to be remembered. They deserve more, they deserve to have their deaths matter, for action to have been spurred to move rusty wheels of change, for a school full of little bodies that still lay where they fell tonight while investigators try to figure out who they are, for all of this to somehow mean something.

If you're reading this in the remote future, did it matter? Did things change?

I can vividly remember after Columbine, the early cries (much of it from the gun lobby) of "It's too soon" and "This isn't the right time to have that discussion." That was so long ago; for perspective, Julie was pregnant with Schuyler but we didn't even know it yet. It was before the Y2K scare, before the contentious Bush/Gore election when we lost faith in our political system, and before 9/11 when we lost our faith in humanity. April of 1999 feels like another world, another lifetime ago, but Columbine? That feels immediate. It feels like it was just yesterday.

Or just this morning.

It feels immediate because some things have changed very little in this country. We as a society keep putting this discussion off for another day. Talking about this right now feels horrific. I get that. I really do. So we wait until we feel a little better and it doesn't seem quite as daunting or as horrible. All those little kids are buried, and we have our holidays, and then a new season of Dancing With The Stars comes on. We see something shiny and pretty, or something new pisses us off, and we move on.

Columbine took place almost fourteen years ago. FOURTEEN YEARS. And the worst part is, thirteen innocent people killed suddenly doesn't sound so impressive, not after Virginia Tech and Aurora and Gabby Giffords, and not after today. We're becoming harder to shock, and harder to inspire to action. We don't want to feel bad, and we don't want to pile conflict on top of our grief. So we pretend that there are two sides to this issue, and we punt.

Are there two sides? I don't know. I do know that if there are sides, one of them has dead children, perishing in public schools very much like the one my daughter attends. I'm just not sure we can pretend that this is a political issue anymore, or that there's truly an "appropriate" time to have this discussion. I suspect there are a great many families in Connecticut tonight who are wishing that we as a society had figured this out a long time ago.

I didn't bring up the events in Connecticut over our regular Friday lunch with Schuyler, mostly because I'd just found out the extent of the tragedy maybe five minutes before, and no one at her school seemed to have heard anything yet. I didn't want to send her off to class scaring the shit out of everyone like some little doomsaying Cassandra. And I didn't want to wreck her day.

After she got home, Schuyler knew immediately something was up. ("Daddy-O, you're hugging my guts out!") So we talked about it, and I did the best I could. She was scared, "a little", and she had lots of questions. I answered them as best as I could, and I tried to be honest with her.

But when she asked if it was going to happen at her school, I told her no. Not probably not, but simply no, there was no question about it, it will never happen at her school. So I did lie. I professed a certainty that I can never actually back up. And I think maybe she knew that, since we went on to talk about what she should do if something like this DOES ever take place. It's complicated, and I feel like I stumbled a bit without actually fumbling. I suppose just this once, I can stomach the pretty lie, so long as she knows what to do if faced with an unlikely but hideous truth.

After talking about it, we went to see a movie. We'd been talking about going to see The Hobbit for months, and we got wonderfully, perfectly lost in it. The timing couldn't be better. When the two of us got back to the car, I was already looking at my phone, re-entering a world that has such a thing as Newtown, Connecticut's heartbreak in it. Schuyler was still absorbed with the movie. She wanted to talk about trolls and dragons.

"Do you believe monsters are real?" she asked me, with total innocence and entirely in reference to the movie we'd just seen.

I paused, putting my phone down for a moment.

"Yeah," I answered. "I really do."

Well. I didn't know what else to say.


Heather said...

One of your best post ever. Really. Just wished it hadn't been so and it wouldn't have been written. Make sense?

Peace and love and light to those broken and grieving.

Jennifer Good said...

Very well put. I was at work when a customer came in and asked if we heard about the shooting. My first instinct was "Another mall shooting" "Somewhere else" had happened. When she told us it was a school about an hour away from us, I was shocked. "These things" just "don't happen" around here, you know? You never think these things happen an hour away in our small WASPy state. I'm completely devastated. Not because it happened so close to home; don't get me wrong. But because it happened at all. This isn't just a bad thing that happened, it was truly evil. There is so much that has to be said and just no good way to put it. But you managed to express it all.

diviner said...

Although I live several thousand miles away from the USA, and have no children, the news coverage had me (a short, fat, bearded biker) in tears.

To all those affected, be they family or friends, school staff or emergency staff, may your higher power of choice grant you peace, and please know that the thoughts of the world are with you.

Christine said...

I agree with of your best posts ever, and one I truly wish didn't need to be written in the first place.

Emmers said...

You've captured everything I wanted to say about yesterday completely. Hopefully tonight I will be able to get lost in middle earth, where the monsters are easily identifiable because they breath fire and steal treasure.

Shana said...

You just have this way of putting things that brings my heart into my throat, and whatever the appropriate equivalent is to my fingers as they type. You nailed it, again.