I had planned rather vaguely to write another blog about political conflict, most specifically in Congress. But the events that happened on Friday, December 14th, in a small elementary school in Connecticut made my ideas seem trivial and made the Congress seem trivial, too. I would have to change my plans, just as Victoria Soto and many of her brave colleagues did that day. My subject is heroism.
Of course, there are many kinds of heroism, ranging from the real exploits of our wounded warriors to the kind of farce many of us were fed in high school: “Shoot if you must this old grey head, but spare my country’s flag.” Puh-leeze.
You may soon guess I’m a little wary of white-haired heroes of any kind. I remember a scene in the Wizard Of Oz where the Great Oz himself tells the frightened lion about heroes in many hometowns who showed up once a year for a parade, dusting off their medals, for wars that were sometimes of dubious value. Most of these wars were big on slogans and small on results. Personally, I never could remember the Maine. I’m still trying to keep it straight about Pearl Harbor.
I am most unsympathetic to white-haired patriots in Congress who are always looking for a war to start in order to create new heroes, young men who are often killed or maimed to no seeming gain.
If all this makes me sound cynical, let me tell you about my heroes! You read about many of them recently. None of them marched toward their fate in uniforms or carrying any weapons. But they ran towards danger fearlessly. Sandy Hook Elementary School principal Dawn Hochsprung and school psychologist Mary Sherlach actually ran toward the killer to try to stop him. They were both killed.
Kaitlin Roig hid all of her students in the bathroom, and Victoria Soto hid all her students in closets and cabinets. When the killer came for them she told him the kids had gone to the gym. She was shot dead, but the killer went on to his next targets.
I have no idea what kind of decoration these adults will receive but whatever they may be they won’t do justice to the courage and selflessness the recipients displayed.
Of course, every story about heroes needs a villain. Mine is named Wayne LaPierre. This is the head of Murder, Inc. (a.k.a. The National Rifle Association.) He had the gall to suggest that the answer to massacres of our children by people carrying military weapons into their schools would be to give every school an armed guard. If that didn’t work, I suppose LaPierre would favor arming all the children.
If Sandy Hook were an isolated incident, perhaps we would spend time talking about it as social psychology. But we have already had our Columbines and our Auroras and enough other less publicized gun massacres to know that this subject is neither amusing nor trivial.
LaPierre is as guilty of aiding and abetting a crime as is the accomplice who hands a killer a loaded gun. Of course, there are differences. I’m sure LaPierre makes a very nice salary indeed, and he doesn’t seem to feel the need to kill himself at the end of each firearms rampage. No, with a smug, satisfied smile, he goes on to suggest that it’s somebody else’s problem, and somebody else should solve it. If they decide that the answer is to arm everybody in the United States, I’m sure LaPierre will be ready to help get them equipped.
I never read Dante’s “Inferno,” but I’ve come across countless references to the various Circles of Hell. They’ve become part of the vocabulary of Western literature. So if there is a special Circle for men who exploit mental illness and murder for their own gain, I’m sure they’ve saved a seat for LaPierre. A hot seat , I hope.