A few quick thoughts on the Newtown shooting & violence in cities.

Updated with phone numbers to call, below.

The news is still unfolding, the horror and the numbers still unclear, but this much we know: Some 27 people, 18 of them children 28 people, 20 of them children, have been killed in an elementary school shooting in Newtown, CT.

Before we go deeper into the day and our grief, I want to quickly say something about the coverage of violent events in America.

It is true – it is unavoidably, abundantly, obviously true – that the violent deaths of white people get much more play than those of brown people in the American media. A few blocks from where I sit, the African-American and Latino residents of Chicago face an ebb and flow of violence that scars the city afresh on a nearly daily basis, many of the victims children who got in the way or young people just trying to get to school or get back home. These are Americans who live with fear, who shape their days and are in turn shaped by fear, Americans who we, more often than not, ignore.

We ignore this violence because the people who die are poor, or we suspect they might have been involved in the violence themselves, or we just don’t care very much about the lives of people who don’t look like us, and racism can warp our own shared humanity, and we also ignore it to no small degree because it has become a daily drip — not news, far from news, just a depressing, daily reality to which most American consumers of news can’t relate. Much as we’ve learned to ignore the daily drip-drip-drip of traffic deaths, we ignore the daily violence among the disadvantaged.

When the malaise reaches the majority and touches our lives, that’s when we notice. Heroin is only a problem, they say, when it reaches the suburbs.

But it is also true that even though far more people die in traffic accidents annually, we become obsessed with plane crashes and their death tolls. All of these terrifying deaths in one place at the same time draws the eye and the heartbreak — and in this case, it was a school. An elementary school. An elementary school covering grades K-4. Not just a large number of deaths at one time, not just all in one place, not even just at a school, for God’s sake — but at a school for really, really little kids.

All of our kids need and deserve to be able to walk to and from school in safety. All of our kids need and deserve to be able to take a seat in social studies or reading and know that they will emerge unscathed. All of them: Black, white, brown, poor, rich, city, country, all.of.them.

The lives of high schoolers just hoping to live to graduation on Chicago’s West Side are intimately bound up with the lives of second graders in Newtown, CT. They all need our attention, and they all need our protection.

And they need real, workable gun laws. It’s far from all they need, but it’s a damn good place to start. Because all of their lives matter, and none of them should live in fear.

America’s adults owe at least that to our children — all of them.


UPDATE:  Here are the phone numbers that we need to call – today – to tell our representatives that we need sane gun laws.

White House: 202-456-1111

US Representatives & Senators: 202-224-3121

I’ve gotten through to everyone, and was just told by the staffer of my conservative Republican Senator (Mark Kirk) that they’ve gotten “a lot of calls on this today.”


  1. Good one, Em

  2. caoil

     /  December 14, 2012

    It’s sad that it even has to be said.

  3. Rage.

    I feel it, to my toes.

    I want to say something cogent, something bold, something inspiring in this hour.

    I can’t.

    I’m fighting tears at work, and none too successfully. They were children… not too far removed in age from my daughter. They died, through no fault of their own, but the fault of a larger society that chooses to remain slaves to special interests and refuses tackle an issue because it’s “tough.”

    One, possibly two, gunmen have splashed us with blood and shame, and if in a week’s time we go about our business and leave the subject on the table, buried under the fiscal “cliff” and party politics and Lindsay Lohan, then we have no right to our outrage. One child dying in school through gun violence is enough – it should have been enough at Columbine. It should have been enough in the Amish country. It should have been enough at Virginia Tech. IT HAS TO BE ENOUGH NOW.

  4. I don’t fundamentally disagree with the point you are making, but I would note that the deaths of 18 children in an episode of gun violence is a huge number, relatively speaking. In Chicago this year, if I have the count right, there have been 2 homicides of children 12 and under resulting from gun violence. (Even that number must be terrifying for parents in Chicago, of course.)

  5. I agree Em however, let’s have some perspective…incidences like today get coverage because they are so big and sudden. A death a minute or a death a day does not have the media impact the sells. i have worked in media for more than 20 years and it is disgusting.

  6. I feel for the deaths and tragedies that happen on a daily basis, whether it’s a standalone shooting in a poor neighborhood or a shooting spree in a public place (malls, schools, god help us). There’s so much we can and should do to reduce the level of gun-related deaths here and across the globe (shouldn’t it scare the hell out of people that the Nicholas Cage movie Lord of War was BASED ON REAL LIFE?), but it’s so damned frustrating we can’t even have a debate on gun safety in this nation because of the NRA wingnut idol worship of the ALMIGHTY FIREARM. This is my rage now.
    I just blogged about this on my site, but because the tone of it is different from your message here Emily I won’t link to it.

  7. BJonthegrid

     /  December 14, 2012

    At work and everyone here is stunned and too many of us are wondering if we’ll have to work one of these Mass Shootings. Sadly, It’s just a matter of time. I woke my husband from his sleep with a text about the shooting, 15 minutes later he texts “Drove by kids school, everything looks normal”. We lived hundreds of miles from CT. I didn’t ask him to go by, but I’m relieved.

    • My wife went to my daughter’s school and picked her up. I tried to convince her nothing would happen, but my heart wasn’t it. I was glad she did it.

      • It’s kind of been all I can do not to do the same.

        • socioprof

           /  December 14, 2012

          You and me both. I still don’t know if kiddo#1 is going to ice-skating with his afterschool program tonight. I just want my babies right now.

        • BJonthegrid

           /  December 14, 2012

          I was trying to think of a good reason to leave early. I wont be home until 8pm. It’s probably a good thing that Dad is on duty today instead of me.

  8. I’m self-plagiarizing a comment I left at Mother Jones on this:

    I’m sick and tired of people calling these events “senseless.” Everything I’ve read about these acts of domestic terrorism confirm that they are planned, and therefore full of intent. These are not “crazy” people as that term is understood in pop culture; no foaming at the mouth, no wildly rolling eyeballs. Purposeful intent. That is the exact opposite of “senseless.”

    We talk about mass killings as if they were earthquakes, difficult or impossible to predict and completely unpreventable. Both claims are crap.

  9. Yes. Yes. Yes.

  10. Ethan Sewall

     /  April 17, 2013

    Hi Emily,

    I have been keeping up with your posts. I enjoy them. Thank you.

    I wanted to let you know that I have published an e-book which is a theoretical framework of American culture and a narrative of the preliminary platform of a new, international political party. I know we don’t know each other, but I would be honored if you would check it out, and I think it might be up your alley. We share a lot of the same concerns, particularly about men exerting their sovereignal freedom over women by raping them. In addition, I think I will need your voice on solving the Israel-Palestine conflict, which is a matter of major concern to me.

    Details on where you can get the book are below if you are interested.

    All the best, Ethan Sewall Founder, Ecumenical Humanist International Political Party Author of The state of American thought: Ensnared in a fallacious liberal-conservative dichotomy Available for any e-reader athttps://www.smashwords.com/books/view/300713 Please join me in bringing about true, positive change for America and the rest of our world.


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