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Le Devoir, Canada

The Newtown Massacre:
America in Search of Answers

By Jean-Claude Leclerc

Translated By Louis Standish

24 December 2012

Edited by Molly Rusk


Canada - Le Devoir - Original Article (French)

According to legend, King Herod had every baby in his kingdom killed, fearing that a newborn would accede to the throne of Israel. Throughout Christendom, salvation for humanity would be announced by this child’s coming for many centuries afterward. Even when we no longer believe, Christmas remains a children’s holiday. A few days before this celebration, the massacre of 20 children in Newtown is felt to be as atrocious as it is unjust.

This hasn’t been the only occurrence of carnage in the United States, but it is scandalous in this America that showcases itself as a rich, free and secure place. This is an absurd paradox, since no other society is as armed, from the federal government to the average citizen, and yet victim to so many deaths by firearms. Now an over-prepared mother, ready for the apocalypse, has brought about her own death and the deaths of numerous children at the hands of her son.

The tragedy has provoked, if not a political crisis, at least a confrontation between the country’s elected officials and the powerful gun lobby. All society wants this time is to understand the causes of this slaughter and to take some measures to keep it from happening again. It can hardly, indeed, be seen as another unforeseeable “isolated case,” the responsibility of which rests with an individual acting alone and without justifiable reason.

Unnatural Catastrophe

For a few days leading up to Christmas, children of less fortunate families will be pampered; meanwhile another movement, less visible but widespread, conveys its sympathy to the children of Newtown, whose parents struggle to explain what has happened to 20 of their classmates. Thousands of toys from all over the country flow into the city to the point that, according to the Associated Press, sponsors were told to send the gifts “in memory of the victims of Sandy Hook” to other causes.

Yet, those little victims did not succumb to a “natural” catastrophe. Nor were they “targeted” for belonging to a group that might inspire hate, fear or vengeance. The killer himself did not belong to any fanatical sect. Even the presence of “mental” disorders, which more than one in five young Americans suffer from, would not explain what Adam Lanza did not only to his mother, but to teachers and grade school students.

No explanation is immediately obvious, but thousands of others have been suggested. Congress will soon be prompted to restrict the general criteria for the sale and possession of firearms, particularly machine guns. And some funds will probably be set aside for family support services and treatment for young people suffering from psychological disorders. Moreover, certain institutions are referred to as contributors to the American gun violence epidemic.

The School, a Place of Violence

We know that the armed forces’ or certain employers’ neglect of already traumatized or distressed individuals can give rise to acts of violence. Layoffs are even prepared according to instruction manuals to help, of course, affected employees, but also to prevent them from "turning against” their workplace. The stress created by military action or by the pressure of work is at the root of the depression that can lead to suicide or homicide.

However, we hardly believe that the school, peaceful building that it is, can also contribute to this type of violence. Why, then, are schools so often the targets of massacre? And why are the “killers” almost always male? Analysts and educators ponder this environment, in which the discipline, courses and expectations would be incompatible with the temperament of boys. As a place and symbol of their failure for some “losers,” the opportunity presents itself as an outlet for their frustration.

On the other hand, there is no reason to dwell on the “lack of protection” that schools in the United States suffer, according to the National Rifle Association. The organization’s suggestion to place an armed guard in each institution has been welcomed with well-deserved ridicule. We’re not going to empty police stations, declared Craig Steckler, the president of the International Association of Chiefs of Police, to place an agent in every school. Of approximately 130,000 schools in the country, 10,000 already have “good armed guards” and massacres nevertheless continue to occur.

More credible is the NRA’s reply regarding certain industries, notably film and media, that unscrupulously exploit horror and violence and magnify the “heroes” of the crimes portrayed, feeding at the same time a climate of fear and the sad subculture of the types in search of a “moment of fame.” The sad irony is that firearms manufacturers, whom the NRA lobbies for and defends, are, while people of “law and order,” also the principal beneficiaries of this culture of insecurity.

Is this the start of a new era? Investment funds that have hardly been touched by other tragedies are distancing themselves. Students, police and municipal employees want to dispose of their interests in this industry. Very well. But it will not be sufficient for grandparents to sell their shares in the companies building the weapons that kill their grandchildren. Others are, unfortunately, going to buy up their investments. And for the rest, America also happens to make the drones that, in passing, rip apart innocents here and there across the globe.

When, indeed, will we finally be able to say: “Peace to the children of the country of Herod and beyond?”



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