My heart is broken by the tragedy at Sandy Hook Elementary School in Newtown, Connecticut – the second deadliest shooting ever in the U.S. In 2012 alone, there have been 14 mass shootings not concentrated in any one part of the country or confined to a particular venue. Sadly, our schools are not off limits.
When this type of violence strikes, it makes news for a day or two and then it fades. Although it commands our attention, and in rare instances causes us to act, our actions have been insufficient to catalyze necessary change. As the calls for greater focus on mental health and gun control increase in volume, we must also stop to acknowledge that the violence we abhor is the product of an American culture in which violence is glorified and celebrated.
We demand movies and games that make a fetish of violence, which the entertainment industry is eager to produce. We gawk at blitz-like media coverage of the violent and sorrowful occurrences that unintentionally make heroes of the villains. We refuse to act to prevent violence. Gun owners fail to secure weapons and elected officials shy away from enacting reasonable regulations to limit access to assault weapons.
Through our inaction we are unintentionally allowing this type of violence to become normal in our society and it is a phenomenon that is becoming a dominant feature of our culture – of what it means to be American.
The calamity at Sandy Hook Elementary School is the first incident in which so many children have been killed. Our sheer horror may be the tipping point we need to transform how we protect our children from violence, as well as other detrimental issues like hunger, poor education, inadequate health care and the myriad of other preventable ills that constrain and limit their promise.
According to security experts, the teachers, administrators, and children followed appropriate school security measures, but despite this well-designed school safety plan, we are mourning the loss of 20 little lives and 6 courageous adults. I am filled with hope that this unimaginable loss of life will not be forgotten once the news cycle moves onto the next big story. I want their lives to give us the collective and individual courage to create the mental health services necessary to identify and respond proactively to those who need help. I want reasonable gun regulation and safety measures to keep us all safe no matter where we happen to be.
Let’s not stop at being sad. Get angry and then take action. Here are three things you can do if you want to say enough is enough:
• Sign this WhiteHouse.gov petition.
• Add your name to this call to action from Moms Rising.
• Tweet to your followers using the hashtag #protectkidsnotguns, created by the Childrens’ Defense Fund.
Let’s make our actions and the lives of our fallen angels count.
Etienne R. LeGrand is president and co-founder of the W.E.B. Du Bois Society