Like many of you, I've become incredibly desensitized to the violence in the world around us. I live near Chicago, and that should speak volumes... There's always been a parfait of real-life horrors taking place on a regular basis, and eventually you just kind of "tune it out." I did that for ages, until I became a parent.
Through countless "school shootings" that gave way to "mass shootings" over the years, I became emotionally detached from the events that took place. Sure, I felt for the folks that were affected, but "bad news" never resonated with me in any kind of lasting way. Even when news broke of the mall shooting in Oregon recently, I just passed it off as another "here we go again," situation. But Sandy Hook on Friday was different. The victims were just kids.
I'd caught a quick blurb about the shooting as I headed out to pick up my daughter. At the time, there was mention of a few ambulances that had come and gone, and still it didn't hit me. I figured we'd hear about a lone gunman taking out a couple of people, and in a few days we'd be "onto the next one." After returning home Friday afternoon post-Christmas shopping with the girls, I was shocked to see a headline with the words "20 Children Killed" when I paid a visit to Google News. For the first time, I found myself overcome with a wave of emotions - consumed with anger and sorrow for families that I'll never know.
I have two beautiful daughters, and the thought of having them taken from me by some crazed asshole is by far one of the most terrifying thoughts I could possibly imagine. My fear was reality for nearly two dozen families, and when I found that the shooter had checked-out himself, my personal rage kicked in. In all of these situations, there's never anyone left to "bring to justice" or to take revenge upon. It's just over.
As we now know, the media coverage of the Sandy Cook massacre was a sloppy mess of misinformation and fabrication. The amount of information being spread with little or no fact-checking was overwhelming. The urge to be "first," is the way of "journalism" these days, and that's terribly unfortunate. Like so many of you, all I wanted to hear were some facts, and instead we were fed with fiction.
As my little ones took their afternoon nap, I watched as twitter and facebook were overcome by bullshit story after bullshit story. I despise the viral spread of fake "facts" via social media, and Friday brought out the worst. As I kept seeing tweet after tweet from users spreading images of notes allegedly written by the children of Sandy Hook Elementary School, my anger grew larger with the general public as a whole - a society so quick to hit the "share" or "retweet" button, but one so reluctant to check any facts, or to simply think for themselves. None of these morons had any inkling to question how they could have "notes" or "photos" from the crime scene where the innocent little victims hadn't even begun to be identified. If you shared one of these images this weekend, YOU are part of the problem. In fact, these notes that were debunked by common sense now have more of an "official" denouncement on Snopes for anyone that still believes them.
And then "religion" entered the picture...
Amongst the fake notes and quotes circulating on twitter, I happened to see an image - a copy of a painting called "Children Coming to Jesus" by John Lautermilch - altered as a viral image promoting a "Christian" clothing company called "Unfettered" (that touts itself as "a clothing label made to glorify Christ and His amazing salvation") being used alongside #PrayForNewtown and #SandyHook hashtags:
This image really bothered me on so many levels. As if exploiting a tragedy for commercial purposes isn't enough, in my eyes it's the wrong time to spread admiration for a fictional character that I've never really cared for... "Jesus Christ". I was probably in sixth or seventh grade when I realized that "God" wasn't real, "Heaven" and "Hell" didn't exist, and that the "Holy Bible" was nothing more than a somewhat poorly-written work of fiction. I played along for a bit, continuing to go to Chuch, making my way through Confirmation, etc. before finally pulling the plug on the whole charade. I'd later explore some world religions to better understand Global culture, and in doing so, solidified my own conclusions. On Friday, and throughout this weekend, every time I noticed a debate about the involvement of "God" or "Satan" in the murders in Connecticut, all I could do is shake my head. Unless the shooter felt that he was compelled by one of these non-existent creatures to do what he did, they had nothing to do with what is a genuinely human problem... and a human tragedy. Now, we have churches preying upon the emotionally-fragile masses that are looking for answers, while only feeding them full of more lies and fairy tales. On the flipside, we have people like "Pastor" Fred Phelps and his "Westboro Baptist Church" announcing that they're going to picket the funerals of the innocent children of Sandy Hook "to sing praise to God for the glory of his work in executing his judgment." To quote Obi-Wan Kenobi (another fictional creation), "Who's the more foolish... the fool, or the fool who follows him?"
The world is a scary place, and after Friday, it's become even more frightening. There is no way to prepare for an event like that at Sandy Hook, and the sad reality of our world is that our children will never be safe... anywhere. Tragedy will continue to strike at random, and there is little we can do to prevent that. We can "watch for warning signs" in people... fight over "reform in gun laws..." demand "security systems in schools" (Sandy Hook had one), but evil will always be lurking. Real-life will always spawn more horrific acts than any terror that is created as a work of fiction.
Sadly, that is a fact.