The Massacre at Newtown, CT


There is only one story on which to reflect this week: The Massacre at Newtown, CT.

I begin with my condolence to the community, especially the families who lost loved ones, in Newtown and encourage readers to light a candle in memory of the 20 children and 6 teachers and administrators killed by Adam Lanza. They, their families, their community, the nation have lost the irreplaceable. Their lives have come to an end in most cases at the dawn of their potential. They are robbed of so much of what could have been, and for each of those who loved them, that is ultimately irrelevant because they have also been robbed of who, for them, always ought to be.

The mother of the killer Adam Lanza, a gun enthusiast who taught him to use the weapons, is among his victims. It is difficult to imagine the twenty-six others not also being indirect victims of her callous decision.

I speak of callousness to raise an important question perhaps on everyone’s mind but not broached. The mantra of guns not killing people but people doing so loses its validity when weapons designed for warfare are at the disposal of nearly anybody. Some people will learn and then use them for their intended purpose: killing people.

There is perversity in the rationalization of guns as innocent; it anthropomorphizes them into children on one hand, as is at times done to hazardous pets such as pit bulls, pythons, and a variety of dangerous animals. The bad faith and flaw in this logic are that they evade the question at hand by offering another one. No one is denying that it is people who use guns on homicidal rampages. What is clear is that the scale of damage depends on the means. Ratcheting up the implements will increase the carnage. Is the logic of innocent weapons sustainable when other implements of warfare such as explosives — some of which were also used recreationally by some zealous members of the Newtown community — take this ridiculous argument to its conclusion? One could imagine the slippery slope to contradictions with regard to nuclear weapons, biological warfare, and on and on. Each requires human action to effect their deadly potential, and that is the point: where there is access, there will be use.

The wave of monstrous acts wrought by the availability of such weapons is symptomatic of something wrong in the society. What more proof do we need to admit a failed policy? A society that produces monsters must take pause, hold itself accountable, and take action to change itself. The word monster is from the Latin word monstrum, which in the infinitive is monere, which means “to show” and “to warn.” A society that fails to respond to so many warnings seals its fate.

“Make our country worthy of their memory,” said President Barack Obama to the grieving community of Newtown and the nation (

There are too many people so wrapped up with greed and shortsighted rituals of entertainment that such foresight seems beyond them.

They don’t care about being on the wrong side of history. That they are aligned with a set of ideals that would make future generations look back with horror and disbelief at their mindset reveals their historical role, which promises no less than shame.

Jeffry Sachs wrote with clarity in his Huffington Post article, “Overcoming Delusions About the Second Amendment” ( He reminds us that the purpose of the second amendment was an eighteenth-century worry about the federal government having a military that would threaten the autonomy of the states. It was not about having individuals bearing arms to fight against the government, an act that, in spite of the fantasies of the delusional, is nothing short of treason, but about governments fighting against each other. No amendment could protect any individual from a state using violence to protect its hold, as people in civil wars across the planet could easily attest.

Bad logic makes it into the public arena because, among other considerations, there are people who profit from them. Sachs’s conclusion is worthy of reflection:

     More basically, the idea that unregulated private gun ownership and trade protects us against tyranny, or  
     that gun controls would threaten tyranny to us all, is baseless. Democracies around the world regulate guns,
     preserve their freedoms, and achieve firearm murder rates that are a tiny fraction of the rates suffered in the  
     United States. Other countries, like Australia, have made themselves much safer from gun massacres. Only  
     the U.S. has a political class, on the take from gun manufacturers owned by Wall Street, that stands by
     while the nation's children are slaughtered. Yet perhaps the stench is getting even too great for some on
     Wall Street.

     In the name of the children, let us wake from the trap of ancient history and the gun-manufacturers.

Perhaps the future will have enough sense to amend the Constitution, as it is the U.S.’s most sacred document, and make explicit the liability of the second amendment. The nation did have enough sense to annul articles of the Constitution that had pernicious consequences. Perhaps it is time to consider changes that would protect the society from that awful tide through which irrelevance places the arrogant and misguided to nothing short of the dust heap of history.

That the massacred were children should remind us of what is at stake in a failure to take heed of such warning. To be right on the side of history is to assure what all children represent, which is no less than the future.

© Lewis R. Gordon