In Memory of Newtown, A Call to Debate without Hate

December 21, 20124 Comments

The tragedy in Newtown has shattered us as a people. Our hearts are bleeding with the families of the fallen. Especially those of us who have young children like Noah and Emilie and Grace and the seventeen other beautiful little ones cut down by a hail of bullets in one of the most innocent places on earth–an elementary school classroom.

America has become a watershed of tears.

Not long after the shooting, my wife took my two-year-old daughter to the grocery. An old woman stopped her in the aisle. “She’s precious,” she said of Kalia. “You know that, don’t you?” My wife nodded, and the woman began to cry. “I don’t think I’ll ever get over what just happened in our country,” she said. “I’ve seen enough. I’m ready to leave this earth.” My wife cried with her, as I did when I heard the story. I’ve cried more in the past week than ever before.

Newtown also has made us afraid. Afraid for our children. Afraid for ourselves. It has brought to the surface a latent fear that has been building in us for years, as we have witnessed mass shooting after mass shooting in schools and malls and houses of worship, in businesses and universities, at gas stations and parties and restaurants and salons and spas and nursing homes and political rallies and movie theaters and residences–even a military base. America has suffered over 50 mass shootings in the past decade, 16 in 2012 alone.

We can’t run from it anymore. Newtown is Everytown. In America, no place is safe.

The convergence of our tears and our fears have inspired us–at long last–to raise an outcry against the madness of gun violence sweeping our nation. We are all the fathers, mothers, brothers, sisters, grandparents, aunts, uncles, neighbors, and friends of young children. They are our pride and joy, our collective challenge to the tyranny of death. In them dwells the future of our world, as individuals and as a civilization.

We know it instinctively: We must not let this happen again. The children who died at Sandy Hook must not die in vain.

Yet what should we do in response to this tragedy? How do we prevent another massacre in a schoolhouse, in a theater, in a temple, or at a shopping mall? As united as we are in our grief, Americans are profoundly divided on this question. Everyone agrees that these mass shootings are evil and that we must protect our schools and public spaces. But when specific proposals are put on the table–especially concerning gun control–we shout at each other instead of listening. We circle the wagons and defend hardline positions, as if the other side is wicked, not riven by the same pain and anger raging within us.

It is time for us to end the bickering, the fear-mongering, the half-truths, and the hate. As the mother of 7-year-old Grace McDonnell said in an extraordinarily courageous interview, “Grace didn’t have an ounce of hate in her. And so we have to live through Grace and realize that hate is not how our family is.”

America, this is the voice we must listen to, not the voices of ideologues and partisans who polarize us, who tell us lies about the other side and make us more afraid. The first step to curbing gun violence in our country is to bring an end to the hatred in our discourse.

We are not enemies. The children of Newtown are our children. We are all in this together.

The second step is to calmly and carefully evaluate our options as a society, being honest with each other about our principles, yet open to learn from people who see things differently. We need to examine the experience of nations that have dealt with massacres like Newtown before. We need to consider (rationally, not emotionally) the approach taken sixteen years ago by Great Britain in the wake of the mass murder of kindergarteners in Dunblane and by Australia in the wake of the Port Arthur massacre. We need to look at Canada and Switzerland and Japan. We need to be ruthlessly practical and willing to compromise, demanding an answer to the question, “What works?” until we find one–or two or three.

Finally, when all the sensible options are on the table, we must debate them with civility and come to agreement without delay. The stakes could not be higher. If we cannot set aside the ideological disputes that inspire gridlock and join hands in combatting this epidemic of mass murder, our leaders will not only fail to lead, they will follow us off the cliff. We will see another Aurora, another Columbine, another Sandy Hook.

Fear will destroy our future.

How many more children have to die before we end our civil war of words about matters on which we will never agree? How long will it take for us to embrace cooperation and find solutions to a crisis that affects all of us equally?

This is the turning point, America. This is the line in the sand. For the sake of the children (and adults) who could be next, we must speak with one voice.

Never again!

4 Responses to “In Memory of Newtown, A Call to Debate without Hate”

  1. Just watching the tweets come in on LaPierr’es press conference. Not constructive to say the least. Then there’s the other anti-NRA rants like Toure’s on MSNBC saying the NRA wants these things to happen. Along with the other side comparing Obama to Stalin and Hitler about gun control.

    My point is, the civility of debate is gone. I wonder if we can really solve the guns/violence issue without fixing that first. If we can.

  2. Lauren

    Agree with Mike completely. Thanks Corban for being a voice of reason.

  3. It’s too late to get rid of guns. Too many criminals have them. Our country is infiltrated with cartel, etc. with much bigger fire power than anyone could imagine. We are niave to think it isn’t so. These events are absolutely horrific, and we may have seen more if some citizens had not had a concealed weapon to stop them I.e. the recent Oregon mall shooting. We really need to be honest about the solution and do the homework. ARs cannot spray bullets for example, they are like any other legal gun. It shoots one at a time. Semantics are very important and can stir up much emotion. If you have any questions about the gun issue and what is and is not already in place, please write

  4. Laurie

    I am a mother, a suburban mother of two grown daughters. My husband and I pulled our daughters out of public school when they were in 3rd and 6th grade and began homeschooling them. Was I afraid they would be murdered? No….. but I could see the toxic culture of sex and violence affecting younger and younger children. Study after study had shown since the 1980’s a correlation between media violence (like TV, moves and video games) and aggression in children between ages 10 and 14. That same media also influences the age at which children get involved in sex and drinking—younger and younger. Where are the Hollywood producers, the actors, the video games producers and media moguls who have the “call of conscience” to protect our children?
    I believe that guns are one of the weapons of choice, but only one. I remember the tylenol scares, the anthrax threats, pipe bombs, and airplane hostages. And Timothy McVeigh with Terry Nichols making a homemade bomb and killing 168 in Oklahoma including 19 children. McVeigh was a Gulf War Vet. A lot of Vets are coming home from Iraq and Afghanistan with PTSD and studies are showing an increase in the incidences of violence from these PTSD victims. We also have to include in the dialogue that a lot of abuse, injuries, and death involve alcohol–another “untouchable” cause or link to violence. But look at the studies by David Lisak, a psychologist who studies sexual predators on campuses across our countries; young women are being raped in record numbers using alcohol rich parties where these rapists (who often don’t consider they have done anything wrong) hunt for their prey.
    Our society is becoming immune to violence until we see a Newtown, CT and then we are jumping for an immediate solution. But it has never been about easy solutions. It has always been about families, loving 2-parent families whenever possible, morals, clear boundaries of right and wrong, social pressure to do the right thing, parents willing to stand up for what is right (to turn off the TV, the video game, etc), communities with the mindset of the family, and the paying consumer only willing to support what is right for the children/family and to ostracize the evil, the filth, the violence, the arrogant, the discrimination and the corrupt. It is about taking seriously the “call of conscience” and doing what is right in your own home, in your school, in your business, in Hollywood, in Washington, D.C., in the courts, and in our laws.

Leave a Reply