Sunday, December 23, 2012

On Newtown.

I've been home for a couple days, and driving around in the daylight has started to become overwhelming. Every flag--every single flag--is at half-staff. There are billboards about Newtown, you can donate to the victims almost everywhere you go, and every conversation I've had finds its way to the topic of gun control.

I don't have anything especially new or poignant to say about the shooting in Newtown. (If you want that, then watch this, which I thought was particularly well-spoken: Joe Scarborough: For the sake of my four children and yours, I choose life and I choose change.) Possible solutions to something as horrible as Newtown are multi-faceted, complex, and drenched in politicization. All I have is an inflated sense of self-importance and the blog that goes with it. But The Dean of Students at my college, Christina Klawitter, sent me an email, and not only did it make me grateful that I chose Beloit, but it is also relevant to post (in part) here:
     I can hardly think of anything more tragic than the school shooting that happened Friday in Newtown, CT. To say that the lives of the survivors have been changed forever is probably a vast understatement. To think that we in Beloit aren't affected, because we weren't present, may be an understatement too.

Not being in Connecticut when the shooting happened made that effect much less intense. When I was in Beloit, caught up in finals and papers and reading and friends and drinking, it was easy to ignore Newtown.  It was easy to forget that it happened, and even easier to be unaware of the fact that it happened an hour away from where I grew up. Here, in Connecticut, it is impossible to ignore Newtown, and it should be just as impossible across the country. These things do affect all of us, in some way or another. A former-teacher at my arts high school lost his daughter. He also went to high school with my older sister, whose ex-boyfriend was a first responder at Sandy Hook:

I don't understand how my sisters haven't been more of a wreck. One has four children under the age of 12, and the other has a three year old, a 12-year old, and a 16-year old. How they've been able to let their children out of their sight amazes me. When I saw my five year old nephew, Yonathan, for the first time after getting out of school, he jumped up to me and wrapped his arms and legs around me and said, "This is my Sasha and I'm never letting go." We talked about his graduation from pre-school, and how excited he was for kindergarten soon. He told me he wanted tic tacs and an iPhone for his sixth birthday, in June. Six, of course, is the age of many of the Sandy Hook victims. After Yonathan agreed to let go of me, I went upstairs and cried. This might seem overly-dramatic, and it probably is, but the world is a scary place and its even scarier when there are children you love and care about living in it with you. I am normally a nervous wreck, and being home usually makes it better. Not this time. I had a severe anxiety attack, mid-Hobbit, and had to leave the theatre because I was sure every person who got up was going to pull out a gun. That's a small example.

Y & I, this summer.
I can see how Connecticut has changed. In many ways, it has changed for the worse--we know that unspeakable, awful things have happened and can happen, and families are missing their children, but in my daily life, I've seen some good changes. I've always thought of Connecticut as a cold place, where people don't look up and nobody holds the doors for you. Maybe its the holiday season, or maybe its Newtown, but Connecticut seems a little warmer than it did last time I was here, in August. People have been kinder, more polite, more patient--my learned Midwest nice hasn't seemed so out of place. That is a good thing. It doesn't come anywhere close to outweighing the bad, but it is palpable. It is something. There are so many children in my family, and still, my older sisters fight and argue, my aunts and uncles spread rumors and gossip about private issues. Newtown has made me realize that that has to stop. Who cares if so-and-so said such-and-such about whatever? Enjoy the time off from work, the times when your nephew says he's never letting you go, and do something for Newtown if you can.

And now, to help balance out everything awful, is my favorite Christmas song:

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