Since Dec. 14, I have felt the need to talk about Newtown, Conn., and the 28 people who died there, but there was so much being said, what could I possibly add to the conversation?
The Saturday before New Year’s, a friend suggested I listen to Abigail Washburn on Ted Talks, which led me to Jacqueline Novogratz, who spoke on a life of immersion.
In her talk, Novogratz told of the late Ingrid Washina-watok, a leader of the Native American Menominee tribe. Washinawatok had once said the elders in Native American culture made decisions by visualizing the faces of children for seven generations into the future. The elders knew they were the stewards of the world those children would inherit.
Her comments made me realize how we are chained to cynicism, short-sightedness and exactly-how-does-this-affect-me thinking. I thought about our idea of “long-range planning,” which usually looks at the next five to 10 years at best, or the next 24 hours, at worst, and I shook my head.
“Solutions” to prevent another Newtown shooting have been thrown about furiously, with one side or the other saying, “No, it can’t be done. It won’t work.”
Defeatism is destructive, too.
In an impassioned commentary the Sunday after the shooting, Bob Schieffer of “Face the Nation” said: “Is what happened Friday the new normal? ... Are we willing to settle for a culture in which kindergarten children are no longer safe in the classroom, and a visit to the mall or a movie is a life-threatening experience?”
No, I don’t think we are. But we want something done now, right away, to “fix” the situation. Those furious, emotional responses may not be the “fix” we need — or ultimately want.
There are first steps that can be taken now to improve security in our schools, to repair a broken mental health system, to keep guns out of the hands of people with mental illness, to identify and treat anguished souls before they kill, and to change hearts and minds so we can believe a better world is possible. The realization of our best hopes may not happen for generations, but we are the ones to set the wheels in motion.
We do not have to accept decline as inevitable. “I think we are better than that,” Schieffer said, and I agree.
After hearing Novogratz speak, I allowed myself to imagine a distant past in which our leaders stopped to envision the faces of Charlotte Bacon with her red curls, and Jack Pinto with his brilliant smile, and the 18 other beautiful faces of the children of Sandy Hook Elementary.
And with the children’s health, safety and happiness in mind, those leaders made decisions assuring them a world in which they would grow up and grow old, and our hearts would not have to break.
Jan Hearne is the Press Tempo editor. Reach her at firstname.lastname@example.org.