Friday, December 21, 2012

Thoughts about Last Friday

It's a sad morning -- wind blowing, rain pouring. And I just finished watching the television coverage of the moment of silence for the Newtown victims. I wish I had something profound to contribute to the discussion that has been going on here all week, but I don't. I can only share my chaotic thoughts about what happened in an elementary school in a small town in Connecticut.

When it began, I remembered Virginia Tech. I am an alum of Virginia Tech. On the day when the shootings happened in Blacksburg, I was exchanging e-mails with other alums as we watched the body count climb and realized the magnitude of what had happened in a place where we thought "something like that" could never happen. I felt like that again when I heard the first report of Sandy Hook. I was under a dryer in a hair salon when the owner walked through and told us what was being reported on the small television on the wall by the front desk. A school in Connecticut, children shot, two shooters? The first scramble for information, with the misinformation and confusion as the media rushed to report. But, yes, a school, and children dead. One shooter, not two, but bad, really bad.

I have no children. I rarely even spend time with small children. But every time I walk by a television and see a photograph of one of those little faces, I tear up. Not only for those children, but for those parents who I can imagine hearing that first news and now trying to hold on as they get through this.

I'm the criminologist in this bunch, the criminal justice professor, but I have little to add to the facts and figures that have been shared here. And the truth is I don't want to think of what happened as a social scientist. There will be time enough for that next semester when I'm back in class. Then we will examine Sandy Hook in my Gender and Crime seminar, and we will talk about the tradition in American culture of "the man with a gun" as hero and good bad guy and saver of the day. We'll talk about Atticus Finch proving his masculinity with a dead-eye shot of a rabid dog and a "shootist" named J.B. Books (John Wayne's last movie) who nods his approval when a teenage boy (played by Ron Howard, little Opie grown up) flings away a gun after shooting the man who has shot Books. In that seminar, we'll talk about the "gun culture" in various regions of the country, including (but not limited to) the South where I grew up and where all of the men had a shotgun or a rifle for hunting and in case of human intruders.We'll talk about women with guns in their hands -- in films (inspiring a feminist debate about whether women need to be as violent as men to be pop culture heroes), in real-life as cops, soldiers, and battered women on trial for killing their abusers. We'll talk about gun violence on TV and in country music, rap, cartoons, and books (including crime fiction). We'll look at how guns were used to "conquer a continent" and "settle the west" -- never mind the people who had to be moved aside to do that. We'll talk about how the gun moved from east to west and back again. We're talk about men, women, and guns, and we'll talk about violence in America, and we'll examine the research and discuss policy proposals.

But right now, I'm just going to allow myself to be sad and tired. And think -- with some hope for the rest of us -- about the people of Newtown who are heroic in the face of tragedy.

No comments: