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Letter: Disturbing Responses to a Tragedy

To the Editor:

Even as details of the horror in Newtown, Conn., were unfolding, two narratives seemed to dominate traditional and social media. One was the predictable mobilization of gun lobby surrogates to every media outlet they could reach. Without expression of condolence to families whose lives had been destroyed, they moved swiftly through misleading statistics and tired bromides such as, “Guns don’t kill; people kill.” They asserted that if more people in Sandy Hook Elementary had been armed, this bloodshed could have been prevented or minimized. A representative of the Michigan Coalition of Responsible Gun Owners referred to public schools as “mass murder empowerment zones” and argued that this tragedy favored lifting the ban on concealed weapons in public schools. Later that day, the Michigan Legislature did so for schools, churches, day-care centers and stadiums. That a person could utter a phrase this insensitive within hours of this tragedy, and do so to advance the gun lobby’s radical agenda, sheds new light on the lengths to which gun proponents will go to advance their interests. They cloak themselves in a dubious interpretation of the Second Amendment to justify their actions, but nothing can cloak their senseless immorality.

The second narrative came from elements of the Christian right and stated that this tragedy could have been averted if public school systems had not systematically removed God from schools. Former Arkansas governor and GOP presidential candidate Mike Huckabee used his platform at Fox News to vocalize this argument. At best, this is an emotional argument not rooted in logic. At worst, it is a cynical effort to politicize tragedy to advance another agenda from outside the mainstream. Huckabee’s implication that the shooting was God’s vengeance is more in line with the vile hatemongers of the Westboro Baptist Church or the Taliban than the American mainstream. It also ignores the fact that in an increasingly diverse country, the understanding and interpretation of God is increasingly diverse. Religion, faith and spirituality are deeply personal matters from which people draw enormous strength. They are an integral part of our society, but must always be kept separate from public institutions.

Jim DiRenzo