I woke up at 3 p.m. on Friday, Dec. 14, 2012. It was my first day off after three weeks of sheer insanity, so I went into full hibernation mode. The first 30 minutes or so after I woke up was spent lazily browsing the Internet. I barely looked at any social media, only seeing a stray post on my Facebook Timeline about gun control. It didn’t immediately catch my interest – there was a shooting in Portland a couple days ago, I figured it was referring to that. About 10 minutes after waking up, I finally saw a tweet about a shooting in Connecticut.
Then I turned on CNN. And I wished I had never woken up.
It’s safe to say that Americans have woken up to far too many shootings this year. This past summer, I contacted my friend in Colorado in a panic making sure that she was okay when I heard about the Aurora theater shooting. It felt like every day for a month afterwards there was new news of a shooting. Soon enough, they fell out of the news cycle again as the election took over – an election that featured almost no debate about gun control, that is. Then came the aforementioned Portland mall shooting earlier this week, which put guns back into the public consciousness. 2012 was on its way to being remembered as the Year of the Mass Shootings.
And then we as a nation received the ugliest wake-up call ever: 28 dead in an elementary school shooting in Newtown, CT. All of a sudden, we couldn’t take any more.
I honestly believe the nation has hit its breaking point in the wake of this shooting. In the past 48 hours, we’ve seen irresponsible journalism, silence from the NRA’s social media and, rising above the fray, a stunning titled called “I Am Adam Lanza’s Mother” that provides a unique voice among the cacophony. (If you haven’t read the piece yet, please do so. It’s incredibly important.)
Would this still have happened if more action had been taken after James Holmes shot up a midnight screening of “The Dark Knight Rises” this past summer? We’ll never know. But I do know that if something doesn’t change now, the American people aren’t going to stay silent. The question is: what needs to change?
“I Am Adam Lanza’s Mother” makes the care of the mentally ill the primary point of discussion, and that message has been echoed across the Twittersphere in the past few days. Others are insisting that gun control is the issue here (Slate published an article I think was incredibly poorly-timed and disrespectful, but still worth reading). Some are trying to speak with voices of reason, but they’re getting lost in the battle to be the most extremely left- or right-minded. Ultimately everyone wants change, but no one can agree as to what that change should be.
I would be blown away if Americans could get it together enough to decide what the change needs to be and commit to making something happen within our government, but I have absolutely no faith that will happen. This tragedy is so heartbreaking for so many reasons, not the least of which is the 28 lives lost to senseless, inexplicable violence. Perhaps even more heartbreaking is the idea that it could easily happen again because we as a nation are so divided that we can’t decide how to fix the problem, much less decide what said problem is.
And that division is possibly the most heartbreaking part of all.