How to Make a Difference in the Wake of Sandy Hook Tragedy

Sandy Hook — From the Newtown Bee.

This morning this story from the Newtown Bee popped up in my newsfeed:

“The story is over. The families are burying their loved ones. Please leave our towns.”

These were the sentiments of State Representative DebraLee Hovey during a Capital memorial service December 19, but they represent the comments of a growing throng of Newtown residents, merchants and officials, as well as a number of survivors who have contacted The Bee in the days since the Sandy Hook School rampage.

I’ve been following the Bee on Facebook for quite some time. I have a deep respect for truly local newspapers. I’m a bit biased as I worked at one of these papers when I was fresh out of college, but these papers do a better job covering what’s important to its readers than just about any other news outlet. Sometimes that just means sitting at town council meetings, and relaying the facts in a way that people can understand. Sometimes it means being the only media outlet grieving families will turn to.  Continue reading

The Cultural Dog Fight: Violence in the Media

A few weeks back I was watching the Sons of Anarchy season finale with my cousin and her friends, when I quickly put my hands over my dog’s eyes and told her not to look. The guys from SAMCRO had stumbled upon a dog fight — pitbulls were ripping each other apart. We were all aghast, as were the guys from SAMCRO. They even took the losing pitbull home — dog-lover and straight-up-psychopath Tig, saved the dog from the owner who was about to kill it — stitched him up, and now the guys of SAMCRO (murderers all!) apparently have a new club mascot.

Now, let’s be clear: this is a violent show, where minor characters die is ghastly ways all the time, and where major characters often reach heartbreaking ends. In this past season we saw the daughter of a major character get burned alive, and then another major character get his head bashed in while in prison (this after his wife and father died at the hands of “the bad guys” in his beloved club). Yes, we were all horrified by these scenes, but we also cheered when villains finally met their makers at the hands of the people they’d wronged. (Some people even make mildly deranged YouTube videos about it.)

The people in this show are awful human beings who often operate by a “code,” which serves to make them more likable to the audience — which can’t get behind things like killing women and children… or, apparently, dog fighting. This reminded me of a scene in The Things They Carried, by Tim O’Brien, where a soldier (clearly suffering from PTSD) shoots a water buffalo. We know that this soldier has recently watched his best-friend blown to bits while they are both in-country in Vietnam.

I remember talking about this scene in college. I remember crying while reading it. And mostly I remember arguing with a supremely stupid girl (I also had to fight with her when she insisted “Hills Like White Elephants” is not about an abortion) about how this juxtaposition — the death of the water buffalo vs. the death of the friend — is intended to show us how numb we can be to violence. After all, I cried when the water buffalo died, but barely flinched when the friend was killed.

At least I understood how dumb my reaction was. Continue reading

Close to Home: Thinking About Newtown

My view of Newtown.

I used to work in Newtown, Connecticut and I lived just down the road in Monroe. I volunteered at the pound, and every once in a while I drive the hour or so back there to visit one of my favorite restaurants. It’s a beautiful town. Exactly what you think of when you picture Connecticut. Beautiful old homes line the main road, and Ram Pasture Park is the kind of place where you see retrievers running in the snow, geese sitting on the pond, and where you can still picture actual rams grazing in the grass. And then there’s the infamous flag pole, which confounds drivers.

I was never really a part of this community, but I know people who are. It’s a community much like the one I grew up in. So when I saw the news today, I was shocked. Sad. Angry.

I sat here watching the news for a while, watching the images of children marching single-file through the parking lot. Listening as elementary school children, with pearl earrings, reported what they’d heard and experienced. I looked at the faces of the newscasters I grew up with as they stumbled over their words, struggled to figure out what was going on, and tried the explain what the hell had happened. Cried with the parents who sobbed as they retrieved their children from the school…or worse.

Eventually I decided to get up and walk the dog. We took the long route, and I streamed NPR to my phone, listening to the news as I walked. It was an unusually beautiful day, today. Not warm, exactly, but not cold. It was clear and sunny, and not so windy that your nose and ears throb. It made me think about 911.  Continue reading