Every now and then there is an event so significant, and so traumatic, that near everyone is permanently and profoundly affected. The Catastrophe in Connecticut appears at this moment to be such a happening.
How is this calamity different from other, similar, ones that have preceded it – say the massacre at the high school in Colorado, or at the shopping mall in Oregon? Several differences come immediately to mind. First, of the 28 total dead (including the shooter), 20 were children of either six and seven. Second, the slaughter took place at an apparently idyllic elementary school in an apparently idyllic New England town. Third, it occurred right smack in the middle of the holiday season, when supposedly we’re making merry. Fourth, the killer got his weapons from a gun enthusiast – who happened in this case to be his own mother. Fifth, the event included, also, matricide.
But if in the wake of this particular calamity there is policy change – for example, an executive order or new legislation on gun control, or video violence – it will be the result not of the specifics of Newtown, but of critical mass. The extent of the collective carnage, and the number of those shot dead, have simply reached unacceptable levels – unacceptable to a clear and increasingly angry and articulate majority. Since the assassinations of Robert Kennedy and Martin Luther King in the spring of 1968, some one million Americans have been killed by guns. So, finally, from the president on down, from the people on up, we are disgusted and disgraced – which is why something, as opposed to nothing, might this time be done.