Sandy Hook Elementary: For Whom the Bell Tolls 14 December 2012

I’ve never been to Sandy Hook Elementary or Newtown, Connecticut.  Like many, however, I have been following media coverage on a number of networks of the events which took place there today.  Given the chaos surrounding such incidents, one can expect that the “details” will change over time as verifying information is often tedious and in many cases “official statements” are based only upon what is known at the moment.  While easier to see in the age of instant communication, this evolvement of reports as time progresses is nothing new.

Myself, I view today’s events at the school and in that community as a tragedy.  The greatest writers in history and the greatest orators do not have the words to accurately describe such heartbreak.  The death of a child, regardless of circumstances, leaves so many unanswered questions about what that child may have accomplished in the future.  Death as a result of violence or a criminal act leaves unanswered questions.  A death of a loved one for a surviving family member or friend, whether anticipated by health or age, or unexpected from an accident leaves unanswered questions.  Perhaps John Donne provided one of the clearest observations in this passage:  “Each man’s death diminishes me, For I am involved in mankind. Therefore, send not to know For whom the bell tolls, It tolls for thee.”

For now, let us assist those at Sandy Hook Elementary, Newtown, Connecticut, and those with ties to the school and area as much as we can.  Those near can offer tangible assistance.  Those afar can offer kind thoughts, prayers, moments of silence, and any comforting message conveyed in any form.

The present is not the time for politicking and trying to score philosophical points from this tragedy.  If you want to play that game, you will have ample opportunities in the future.  Right now, the only person who could accurately describe the rationale behind this tragedy is the individual who committed it.  Even if that individual were able to speak, their reasoning might make no sense to others who view such events as sadness or they might be unable to convey any type of justification even to themselves.

At this point in time, I do not see a place for the religious arguments I’ve heard.  You might believe this event to be a punishment from God, but I do not.  You might believe this to be proof that God does not exist, but I do not.  You might believe this a result of too much religion in schools or not enough religion in schools, but I do not.  You might believe this is a mandate for stricter gun control laws or for loosening existing laws and advocating carry permits, but I do not.  You might think this is about Democrats or Republicans, but I do not.

I, the majority of my friends and just people with whom I am acquainted, have no issues debating the issues in the paragraph above and many others.  In the classroom, my students probably could not tell you my personal opinions on any of these issues or others as I play that proverbial “Devil’s Advocate” countering every position offered to try and bring as many points and counter points into view.

I’m only suggesting that now is not the time for such debates, and it is certainly not the time to capitalize on the situation by promoting divisiveness.  Now is the time to count your own blessings; a time to appreciate those things that are too often taken for granted.  Now is the time to encourage an environment of healing.

No disrespect intended, but my opinion and your opinion about so many issues really don’t matter at this moment in time.  What matters is that the potential of a child who could later solve issues of today is gone.  What matters is many are grieving.  What matters is that regardless of our personal beliefs, genders, ethnicities, ages, and everything else, we have all been diminished for we are all one people.  We may see and hear tones differently from the same bell or from another bell, but for each of us it still tolls.