How the Newtown massacre rips me open, and how I respond

Conn. Adult Shooting Victims Hailed As Heroes

Every time I turn around, there’s some part of the Newtown tragedy that seems to tear me open all over again. I saw my kids, only a couple of years older than the victims, in those 20 kids. Their loss, and the terror that must have proceeded it, destroys any defenses I’ve built to be able to look at events and try to make sense of them (my vocation, in a nutshell).

This piece makes me see my wife, my parents and many friends who chose to apply their energy and talents to teaching kids and who, I have no doubt at all, would have chosen to die to protect the kids. Teaching, sad to say, is now an irrational choice; smart, talented people could make far more money with far fewer headaches in nearly any other field, and even the time-servers could find niches that are far less scrutinized and criticized for equal pay. It’s like being a missionary or a soldier or a relief worker now. And when those who are trying to do good are killed, a special kind of rage is created.

This is kind of like the reason I can only take small doses of damnyouautocorrect. (Stick with me, this isn’t silly.) I can see myself in those situations to such an extent that I laugh until I literally can’t breathe. And I’m using “literally” correctly here. I haven’t texted my mom any totally inappropriate comments intended for someone else, but that’s likely only because she doesn’t text. The identification is nearly total.

And so when I read or listen to something about this massacre, I’m completely involved, all my mirror neurons or whatever putting me in the position of a parent facing their child’s mortality in the most tearing way possible, of a husband, son or friend torn between awe and gratefulness and inconsolable sorrow at the heroism of a teacher that is just the outsized, panoramic version of the little heroic acts they do every day for their kids.

I get pretty emotional about this, and I pull even fewer punches than I normally would. I’ve hurt at least two friends’ feelings that I’m aware of in attacking political positions they hold in a manner reflecting my overwhelming desire to protect those I love, who I easily identify with the 26 who died. I apologize for the hurt, but I cannot apologize for the aggression. I’m only protecting those I love in the best way I know how in the situation we’re facing. They deserve nothing less.

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