It’s splashed across the top of the New York Times homepage:"27 DEAD IN SHOOTING; 20 CHILDREN.”
The numbers keep climbing. Each successive detail rends the heart a little further. The shooter, Adam Lanza, may have been as young as 20-years-old. The site of the massacre: an elementary school. Lanza’s mother taught kindergarten at that school. She was also his first victim. And then he took his Sig Sauer, his Glock, and his M4 carbine, and he murdered 20 children between the ages of 5 and 10, along with at least five of their teachers and school staff.
Afterwards, in the parking lot, a little boy told a Times reporter, "we were in the gym, and I heard really loud bangs." He was shivering, that little boy. He was weeping. And he is not alone.
But we can't talk about it. Because, for reasons passing understanding, getting mad about the unjustly dead, wanting to do something about it, is tantamount to politicizing it, and that, White House Press Secretary Jay Carney tells us, we cannot do.
Yes: Children died today, and there, on the blue-and-white draped stage reserved for representatives of our Commander-in-Chief, is Carney, telling us that "Today's not ... a day to engage in the usual Washington policy debates ... That day will come, but today's not that day." He won’t be the only one to say so. And yet ….
And yet it wasn't the day in July, when James Holmes, having stockpiled ammunition for months and duly armed with body armor, tear gas and a grim military arsenal, opened fire in a crowded Colorado theater – when he murdered 12 people and wounded 58, and Carney said we should be content with "existing law." It wasn’t the day in October, when Radcliffe Haughton used a Glock .40 to murder his wife and two of her co-workers in Wisconsin, leaving 8 little girls without mothers, and Carney had "nothing new to announce." Nor was it the day this month when Jacob Roberts put on a hockey mask to stride through the halls of his Oregon mall and murder two strangers, but by God, Carney’s demurrals started to feel familiar.
Why can't we talk about what's gone wrong here? Why can't we talk about causes, or solutions, or just the tremendous, weeping sore in our hearts? What kind of republic are we that can't grapple with these things in the public square?
Three cheers, I say, for Allison Benedikt at Slate, who cries, "President Obama, Today’s the Day to Politicize This Tragedy." Three cheers for everyone who signs this White House petition to just, for God's sake, "set a date and time to have a conversation about gun policy in the United States." Three cheers for The Onion for uttering the primal scream that our public representatives keep bottled up. And let’s all do the same ourselves, perhaps with our closest friends at both ends of the political spectrum.
Because if we do nothing else today, we should cry together. We should rage together. We should yell and scream and draw up detailed charts and have arguments and take responsibility for what happens next, because if we can’t then what are we doing here in the first place?
And if, in the middle of it all, we talk gun control policy, well, it’s about damn time. The same goes for education policy or mental health policy. At the end of the day, those are our children the same way that those are our guns, and if and when another shooting occurs, it’ll be ours, too. The time to start stopping it is now.