Today I can't focus much on work. I am too distraught by the Connecticut shooting. My son is the same age as the victims, and I continually visualize his elementary school, his principal, his teacher, his classmates, himself... as the victims of this horrible tragedy.
I see a long string of reactions.
It's because of video games.
It's because of gun control.
It's because of mental illness.
It's because of homosexuals.
And sadness. A chasm of sadness impossible to fill.
We see the huge differences in the responses of people who relate to their faith to make sense of this tragedy. We see the President praying for the victims and promising action. We see members flocking to churches to pray. We see the Westboro Baptist Church showing their support of their God that gave "just judgment" by allowing the murder of 6- and 7-year-old children and adults.
As an atheist, I have actually been able to cope with this kind of tragedy in a much more comprehensive and effective way than when I was a theist. The theist must answer questions of "why the innocents", "what was God's plan", etc. Instead of focusing on such empty questions that lead only to a suspension of reasoned responses, I'm now able to see this for what it is: the horrible actions of a mentally ill young man who had access to a weapon of mass destruction, and decided, for whatever reason, that an elementary school was an appropriate venue to shoot random children and people. It is as "purposeful" as a car accident, a hurricane, or a terminal illness. Yet, even though I offer no cosmologically-inspired reasons for this to happen, there is action that we can take.
The action we take SHOULD be based on evidence and reason, not faith in all-powerful invisible friends. There is clearly a problem in this nation that is causing all of these school shootings. We need to address these problems. It is so endemic that there will be no "silver bullet" solution. However, reason and evidence can tell us a lot of things:
1. Assault rifles have no reason to be in the general population.
2. Mentally ill people need better care.
3. We need more awareness and ability to cope with sociopathic individuals.
4. Safety should not be taking a back seat to fiscal problems.
I can say that all of the people in the US could reasonably agree to all of these (except for 1, perhaps, the NRA may not like). We can have a real discussion about this issue with evidence, facts, numbers, statistics, and a comprehensive strategy to get rid of this problem. Is it going to be easy? No. Is it necessary.
To the parents and families of the victims: my heart goes out to you, and my honest condolences. I cannot imagine the grief you feel, I can barely think about what I would have felt if it were my children in that school without breaking down and being nearly incapacitated with sorrow. It is a tragedy of the worst kind: purposeless, and preventable.
We should work together to prevent these purposeless events in the future. WE are in charge of the care of each other. WE must fix our problems. WE are empowered to make decisions that improve our lives. And we must not be afraid to do so.