The massacre at Sandy Hook Elementary School on Friday reawakened us all to the terrible fact that we are not as safe and secure as we used to be in our homes, in our workplaces, in our shopping malls and in our schools.
Friday, we were again reminded that the U.S., in the course of becoming too free a nation over the last half century, has evolved into the amoral society envisioned in the 20th century films of Stanley Kubrick and Quentin Tarantino. Many of those films anticipated today’s graphic violence and foretold of our acceptance of such disgraceful, surreal chaos.
It’s been 12 years since 9/11, and except for increased security at airports, we Americans have continued to live our day-to-day lives within a false framework of harmless refuge, deadened to the realities to which we are all vulnerable.
It’s a bizarre culture that chooses to overlook, sanction, and even glorify bloodshed and mayhem. And it’s made worse by the 24-7 instantaneous news cycle that pounds our senses with constant news of violence to the point that we can’t listen or care anymore.
Despite this particular massacre, which hit home to every parent, we will continue to discourage common sense limits to the propagation of violent behavior. We do that in the name of protecting important constitutional rights, including that to bear arms, to speak freely and to make our own decisions, even if we’re mentally disturbed.
Actually, we have gone off the deep end, and continue to pay the price, including the massacre at Sandy Hook Elementary School, in pushing these rights to nonsensical limits.So while we learned the lessons of 9/11 well enough to be vigilant against hijackings by terrorists, nevertheless, over and over again, we permit mentally ill people – domestic terrorists – to get their hands on legal semi-automatic weapons. And sometimes they enter college campuses, movie theaters, malls and elementary school classrooms to shoot away.
Dangerous mentally ill people will continue to live among us and roam our streets unfettered, and legally purchased semi-automatic weapons will continue to fall into the wrong hands. And we as Americans will continue to be numb and accepting of media presentation, even promotion of violent behavior.
Yet, despite this concurrence, President Obama spoke, and cried, on behalf of every American parent on Friday when he spoke the real truth. We are tired of the violence; our country has endured too many shootings; and we must do something to address this behavior.
In his most moving and evocative speech ever, Obama said, “We’re going to have to come together and take meaningful action to prevent more tragedies like this, regardless of the politics.” Just as our government took immediate action to secure air travel after 9/11, school districts and the federal government must now dedicate substantial resources toward making our schools less prone to attacks like the one that took place at Sandy Hook Elementary School.
But it’s not about arming teachers or making schools into forts. It’s all about creating a culture of preparedness and responsibility. School districts, and business entities too, must take steps to teach and train staff better to prepare and prevent violence in their schools, workplaces and public settings.
And it’s not just about implementing physical security like metal detectors and surveillance equipment. It’s about getting educators and students, even kindergartners, to learn and practice to protect themselves against threats to their well-being and how to respond in moments of crises.
While it is still important to debate gun control of automatic weapons and discuss how to limit access to guns to criminals and the criminally insane, more importantly, Americans need to dedicate our resources toward teaching and preparing our citizens to deal with the ever-present threat of violence, just as the Israelis do. It’s not about being fearful. It’s about being ready to react the next time a gunman enters your violence-prone 21st-century American life.
Steven Kurlander is an attorney, communications strategist/writer and columnist for the Sun Sentinel and Florida Voices and a blogger for the Huffington Post.