My political consciousness was only beginning to surface at the age of 10, in 1999, the year the Columbine shooting weighed heavily on America’s magazine racks. The loss of innocence that took place at that Colorado high school was not something I could yet understand.
It was made clear to me the morning I learned of the Newtown massacre. Like the students at Columbine who survived tragedy, the children lucky enough to escape Sandy Hook Elementary alive felt the fear of death — worse yet, at an age when many kids still fear the dark.
So jarring were the events of the day, that in an evening address to the nation, the president shed tears — and his honorific: “I react not as a president, but as anyone else would,” he told us, “as a parent.”
Sadly, the aim of some media outlets was to sell papers and ad time, not report the pain in Connecticut. On Dec. 14, it bled, it lead, and let’s not forget, Gawker noted, that ABC reporter Nadine Shubailat got told to “eat a d---” on Twitter for aggressively seeking a source.
What united us in horror soon tore at us politically, and the news media was more than happy to fan the flames. They injected sensation and celebrity into their latest news cycle, inspired by Newtown.
The NRA was made the Death Star of right wing politics and Piers Morgan, the British TV interviewer with a penchant for fluff, was held up as an unlikely spokesperson for gun control. Morgan’s Twitter handle, we were told, was the new James Brady.
The conspiratorially-minded radio host Alex Jones butted heads with Morgan, who some urged should be deported, and we started talking about the possibility of armed guards in our public schools. What did the Constitution really mean, we asked, and do violent video games and movies beget violence? Vice President Joe Biden met with the makers of Call of Duty and Medal of Honor and Quentin Tarantino told us that gory films weren’t responsible for the whole mess.
Experts quoted a variety of statistics and pundits’ arguments took on an endless number of permutations. Yet it seemed we were none the wiser, hindered by a sensationalistic media narrative.
Worse, the daily political slugfest – likely now more profitable for publishers and networks than December’s tragedy – numbed many of us to the horror of the shooting and the victims’ pain.
Should we forget the loss of innocence that took place at Sandy Hook, Newtown is bound to become but a mere talking point, and our emotional understanding of the town's shooting as limited as a 10-year-old's.