Ask questions later

Now that 2012 is safely out the door, with many crying “And don’t let it hit you on the way out!” in its wake, I think we can agree that the shootings at Sandy Hook were the worst thing that happened in the US… probably in about ten years. It was one of those events that people could refer to obliquely (“What happened last week/month/year…”) without having to explain. Like 9.11 it shook a lot of Americans to the core, and even got people to ask questions they are not accustomed to asking.

CNN contributor Roland Martin got in trouble by suggesting that one of the parents of the kids shot at the Sandy Hook Elementary School should have an open casket funeral and show the world the child’s broken body. He evoked Emmet Till’s mother, who famously insisted on an open casket at her son’s funeral in 1955, to show the world what the brutality of southern racism looked like. But those images, hardly recognizable as a human being, galvanized the Civil Rights Movement.

With gun control, there is no South to travel to, of course. Newtown, Aurora, Stockton — as corny as it sounds, it might be your town next. And if the image of a seven-year-old shot ten times is not enough to stir national outrage, what could be worse? A shooting in a a nursery? An incubator? A hospital? A hospice? Not to write tomorrow’s headlines…

The Civil Rights Movement did not begin in Washington and to those wondering if Congress will take the lead on restricting weapons like the one used in Newtown I have to ask: Why would they? Unless their constituents are lighting up the switchboards and filling their inboxes with cries for assault rifle bans, what on earth would compel them to stick their hands in the flaming hornet’s nest of gun control legislation? Some of them actually want to keep their jobs. And after the fiscal cliff fiasco how much faith do you have in our legislature’s ability to do anything?

Perhaps seeing a million people in the Washington mall would be a start. Everyone bearing  a photo of a child — those at Newtown and all the kids, mostly of color who are shot everyday — each one punched full of holes. Sometimes having an open mind means looking into an open casket and having the strength not to look away.


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