Friday, December 14, 2012

Responding to the Senselessness

As the horrific tragedy that took place this morning at Sandy Hook Elementary in Newtown, CT continues to unfold, my emotions are raw and my stomach churns.  How long will such senseless violence continue to disrupt the fabric of our nation; how many more innocents will need to die before we make sensible changes to our mental health system and our gun control laws (which would not magically end tragedies such as this, but would certainly help to curtail them)?

As I watch the news reports and the inevitable Facebook posting and posturing, I notice that there are the usual inaccuracies and updates as the media and law enforcement officials struggle to keep up with developing events.  One discrepancy that has arisen is the precise identity of the shooter.  Some outlets reported one name, though as I write, reports are coming in that the actual perpetrator may have been the brother of the man initially identified.

To this I say, "So what?"  Why do we need to know the identity of the shooter?  This only provides him, posthumously, with the aggrandizement and attention that he sought.  It may even inspire copycats who seek to make a name for themselves, no matter how grotesque the means to the end prove to be.  Better that we should hear about the victims- not out of any prurient interest or disrespect to their grieving families, but rather because this helps us understand that each of these lives cut short was a life filled with meaning and potential.  Knowing their names and their stories prevents us from shrugging this off as some unfortunate yet anonymous incident that we can absorb in a cavalier fashion with the rest of our daily news.  It makes it real, and, God willing, provokes us to respond, to finally say "No more!"

There's a Hebrew phrase, "y'mach shmo"- "may his name be blotted out."  It's usually reserved for the most reprehensible enemies of the Jewish people: Haman, Hitler, and the like, whose images can never be rehabilitated.  Let's adopt this stance for those who would slaughter innocents in movie theaters, shopping malls, colleges, and elementary schools-- "yimach sh'mam"- may their names be blotted out.  May they be denied even an iota of the publicity for which they hungered, may they rot namelessly and unlamented.

And may the memories of the righteous, whom we now recall as victims simply because they were in the wrong place at the wrong time, be remembered eternally for blessing.