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Soapbox Philosophy: What can we do in the face of violence?
by Gregory R. Norfleet · Op-Ed · December 21, 2012


At Monday’s meeting of the West Branch Board of Education, Board President Mike Owen asked for a moment of silence “for the victims of Connecticut.”


The horrific news of Dec. 14 needed no more introduction. Everyone obliged.

Perhaps most parents this past week did something similar, though less formal. I know that when my gaze fell on my three boys after I heard the news, it stayed there several seconds longer than usual. And, yes, as President Obama predicted for parents across the United States, I did hug my boys a little tighter that night.

Many times this weekend I stopped in a quiet moment to reflect on the question, “How would I react if a shooter took any of my children away too soon?”

Owen shared a quick story of how his daughter got the car stuck on a dirt road the night before.

“There’s a lot of families in Connecticut having those kinds of memories right now,” he said.

I know what he means. This past week, our youngest, Keaton, 6 — the same age as the 20 children killed in Newton — wrote an adorable note to Robin, taped it into an envelope and placed it in the mailbox for her to find. Those are memories we cherish.

When we stopped to consider how we would handle the loss of our own child, it was not to be morbid, but to try to sympathize with the parents of those children at Sandy Hook Elementary. It is similar for those families who lost mothers and wives who worked at the school.

Later in Monday’s school board meeting, Superintendent Kevin Hatfield briefly talked about school security, saying he is confident West Branch is doing a good job, but that there are still ways to improve.

“But there is nothing that could fully ever stop …” his voice trailed off. “It’s sad to be even talking about this right before the holidays. Unfortunately, it’s the world we live in.”

He’s right.

We may feel we want to implement every possible gun control legislation the Second Amendment will allow, or double the money spent on mental illness research and treatment. And that is a natural response to the violent murders of these 27 people. We want to make sure this never happens again.

But we also know that there is a bigger problem here, one that fosters this kind of rage and action. We are all fundamentally flawed, and our culture wants us to ignore that. It is a problem we cannot quickly resolve. It is a problem we all have to address in our day-to-day lives to foster a culture that cherishes life.

All life.

And yet even that will not stop every mass murder. We simply do not have that kind of control.

But another reaction to the evil in Newtown was that people flocked to vigils and church services, seeking comfort and peace in the face of unspeakable pain and chaos.

Many of us will celebrate Christmas this year with the sadness of this event still lurking in the backs of our minds.

Hopefully we can all find solace by remembering the child born in a manger, the one sent to save us all.

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