I come from a town that values politeness over partisanship. We debate the merits of political lawn signs on Main Street because they might be too polarizing. We elect officials from both sides of the aisle because they’re the men and women we run into regularly at the general store. On Labor Day, Republicans and Democrats march alongside each other at the annual parade in red, white, and blue. In short, we work hard to make sure that it really is “Nicer in Newtown,” even when it comes to politics.
That’s why it’s particularly disheartening for me to see the tragedy that occurred here in my hometown used as partisan fodder. I don’t want to blame conservatives or liberals. I don’t want to blame anyone. We lost 20 children on Friday; babies who believed in Santa and hoped for snow days, and didn’t know the difference between Republican and Democrat. There aren’t sides to pick here. There are 26 lives to mourn. And there is a real conversation to have about school safety, military grade weapons, and the accessibility of rounds of ammunition that can riddle small bodies with dozens of bullets. We owe the children and the brave and beautiful women who died protecting them that conversation. There is also a conversation to have about support and treatment for people with mental health issues and developmental disabilities. We owe the gunman and his family that conversation.
Pointing fingers, calling names, and entrenching old political positions won’t help. It won’t help us to honor those who were lost and it won’t help us to move forward. I’ve been amazed, although not surprised, by the way that my community and communities around the nation have come together to support each other in the wake of this tragedy. I’d like to be equally amazed by our politicians and civic leaders. I hope that they can come together for real dialogue and appropriate action around violence, mental health, and our repeated failure in keeping our children safe. Both sides of the aisle could take a page from Newtown and try to make things a little nicer going forward.