You may have missed this particular act of wickedness: Someone called in a bomb threat to Sandy Hook Elementary School in Newtown, Conn., on Friday, right on the sixth anniversary of the massacre of 20 first-grade students and six educators there by a 20-year-old gunman.
Children were evacuated on a day meant for memorial services and moments of silence. Teachers and students were sent home after the threat was called in about 9 a.m., the Associated Press reported. Police searched the building; nothing was found.
A lot has been written about what happened at the school on Dec. 14, 2012, and what didn’t happen afterward when legislators declined to take action on gun-control measures.
Here is a different sort of musing about it from Peter Greene, a veteran English teacher who recently retired from a small-town school in Pennsylvania. Greene writes the always lively Curmudgucation blog, on which this first appeared. He gave permission to publish this.
By Peter Greene
Has it been six years?
It seems forever, and yet it seems yesterday. There will be many retro pieces, looking at the events at Sandy Hook, the children, the families, the killer, the damaged whack jobs who have denied its existence, and of course many reflections about the turning point where we chose as a culture not to turn.
I’ll leave all of that to others. I just want to imagine.
Imagine a country where people rose up and said decades ago: “Guns are nice and important and all, but nothing is more valuable than the lives of innocents. We’re going to have reasonable gun controls in this country before another young life is lost.”
Don’t imagine it happening after Sandy Hook. Imagine it years earlier, after the death of just one or two children by gunfire. In this world, Sandy Hook is just one more small school most people never heard of.
Imagine that when people marched against abortion, they simultaneously marched against gun violence. “We are pro-life,” they yelled, “and that means that we want to see every step necessary to preserve the lives of children.” Imagine a world in which pro-life activists chained themselves to the gates of gun factories and shamed gun company executives on their way to work every day.
Imagine that these attitudes were part of a culture-wide valuing of children, a culture that loved children so much that it took extraordinary steps to preserve their lives. The government provided free health care for every single child, regardless of family income. People brought their children here from other countries for our free health care, and we said: “Great. Bring them. Children are so precious and valuable that we wouldn’t sleep knowing that there was a suffering child in the world that we could have helped but didn’t.”
Imagine that this love of children extended to education. In fact, imagine that education was one of the biggest budget items for federal and state spending. “Nothing is too good for our children,” said political leaders. “We will make sure that every school has nothing but the newest and best facilities and enough qualified teachers that class sizes can be small. Every child has the personal attention of excellent teachers, and that goes double for children growing up in poor neighborhoods.” Not all the politicians believed this, of course, but in this world, the only way you could get elected was by being a good friend to public schools. And every public school had the very best in resources, staff and facilities, with the necessary resources to meet the individual needs of each child.
“Man,” groused the Pentagon in this world. “I wish we could get the kind of unwavering support public schools get. We have to fight and scrape and argue for every cent.”
Imagine a country where all resources are directed to giving each child a healthy, happy childhood, complete with not just education, but counseling support, medical support, food support, resources to support the neighborhoods where they live; in short, a culture that took such good care of families that children grew up to be healthy well-educated unbroken adults. Imagine, in short, a country where people don’t look at education and say, “Well, what’s the least we can get away with spending on education for Those People’s children?”
Imagine a country in which people don’t say, “It’s unfortunate that children must suffer for the bad choices their parents made, but there it is. Tough.”
Imagine a country in which our policy is not, “Well, if you wanted good health care and food and housing, you shouldn’t have decided to be poor.”
Imagine a country in which we do not look at the bodies of 20 innocent children and six adults who were looking after them and say, “Well, that’s sad and all. But the right to stockpile a bunch of weapons that have no purpose except to kill other humans — that right is more important than trying to save a bunch of children."
As a country, we like to make noise about how swell children are. Now that it’s “ ‘Tis The Season,” we are awash in beautiful sentiments about children. But talk is cheap, inaction expensive. The anniversary of the Sandy Hook killing is one more time to remember just how much it costs us.