I've been debating writing anything about the horrific events of Sandy Hook. What could I say that hasn't been said already? What more could I add to this online echo chamber that would make any sense of this horrible, horrible day? I don't know. I don't think there is any making sense, it's just sad all around.
One thing that needs to be said loudly, though. Once the media suspected that the killer was on the autism spectrum, there were all sorts of sensational headlines that coupled Asperger's with a natural inclination toward violence and anger. Not to mince words: this is bullshit. This is dangerous journalism and is already resulting in harm and harassment to people on the autism spectrum all over the country. Neither autism nor mental illness makes people violent; in fact, they're four times more likely to be the victims of violent crimes than neurotypical folks.
There are other troubling aspects of the journalism surrounding this event. While it's certainly a story that deserves coverage, the killer has almost become a celebrity. His picture and name are plastered everywhere with voyeuristic minute-by-minute accounts of the attack. If you can spare three minutes and can access Youtube, please watch this video from the BBC to understand why this is irresponsible.
It sickens me, fills me with rage, to see the 24-hour cable outlets close up on the faces of hurting and crying children. This isn't journalism, this is torture porn. This is feeding sickness. This is lining the pockets of ghouls with ill-gotten advertising dollars. The day I decided I was never going to work in television news (and essentially making my degree a fancy paperweight) was the day I saw local coverage of a house fire as a camera slowly zoomed into the closeup of an eight year old boy, crying so hard that he couldn't catch his breath.
Meanwhile, the memories of the brave teachers and school staff who died defending their children - Rachel D'Avino, Dawn Hochsprung, Anne Marie Murphy, Lauren Rousseau, Mary Sherlach, and Victoria Soto - have mostly been spread through grassroots efforts and Facebook memes. In a year where teachers have been vilified, remembering them is even more poignant and important.
Any time I see the faces of this children who died far too early, I see the faces of the children I teach each Sunday. I pray for the families and communities affected by this tragedy. I pray for the Lanza family. I pray for an end to the culture that creates and even encourages this violence to flourish.
But I can't just pray. I can't be, to steal a quote, so heavenly minded that I'm no earthly good. I also have to act: I have to proactively reach out to trouble kids, to get the help they may need and to fill their hearts and minds with positive and productive lives so that there's no place for violence to blossom. I have to create a world where my kids church kids and all other kids feel safe. I have to, and so do you. Let's imagine what an entirely new world and new way of life looks like, and then let's figure out the first step we should take to get there.