Letter: On the deaths in Newtown

We have to see what is before our eyes

To the Editor:

As someone who has no children, I occasionally dream of a daughter I cuddle and teach interesting things to, especially outdoors. She runs wild a little bit and I like the rebellion—it means an independent mind and spirit. One of the things I might show her are the birds’ nests, vulnerable now in their naked December trees.

As I pass the gravestones of early Cape Cod families, many are barely past infancy. Azubah, died at 2 years; Ezekiel under a tiny headstone. Sad indeed, but they, at least, died of natural causes. Grave grey are the oaks with the cup of twigs woven so tightly in nests they last through winter rains, perhaps for a sparrow or a vireo; forty feet up in a branch out of reach of coyotes and humans. Over there, if you are sharp of eye, is a leaf nest where a mother squirrel may be nursing her November brood. In various cavities winter birds and owls hide. Out now are the sleek crows, a couple of puffed up robins, and the ubiquitous chickadees.

The sea buckles and surges, slowing in the cold. It is so steely in color today, as if reminding us of our hubris: the sea will takeover when we have done too much damage. The storm sky gathers heading toward our first snows, delayed because of the violence we do to the atmosphere by the exhalations of our industrial needs and greeds.

There are over a score of children dead. As many religions have it, all children are our children. As many holy rites do, there is a wailing, a keening, a spirit releasing.

The smoke from a winter hearth permeates the street where I walk. I can hear gun shots from the Rod and Gun club. The smoke in a spirit ceremony will go up to the heavens, bringing the ghost to creation. The shots are jarring.

I have always honored the hunter; those who need meat, and bring it to table with respect. I have always been horrified at violence, to the point where I cover my ears, do not go to movies, turn off the news, will not read bloody books.

We have to see what is before our eyes: we are obscene, disgusting with violence. We cannot turn on the TV without seeing a promo for some show where there is rage and death and ugly images. As the book Clockwork Orange taught so vividly, violence creates reactive rage, protective anger—and with no rites of passage for the aggression of the young males at the most arguably dangerous age in our culture—where does that rage go in those who are already distorted?

Our relativism and indeed our precepts of turning the other cheek do nothing for the innocent who are slaughtered. Who are still crying out for needless murder?: The victims of the Holocaust, of the genocide of the American indigenous populations in Latin America and here, of those unjustly made captive in the Middle East; of those hundreds of thousands murdered in wars in Iraq and Afghanistan; of the 3,000 from 9/11.

We know in Bhutan, in Innuit lands, where there was until recently a love of harmony and beauty—community, caring, the intertwining of man with the spirit of the land and of necessity rather than materialism--that when life on a screen pre-empted the inner life, humans turned to drugs and violence and came away from each other and the land to the empty aggression which ambition creates.

It is not just TV, but we do what we see and when we do wrong, guilt hardens our hearts to do more wrong. A contagion. There is a certain hypocrisy to glorifying wars and drones which kill countless innocent children, while mourning those at home.

All the victims, unlike the birds fledged from those now dry and empty nests, will never learn to fly.

Lee Roscoe
Brewster, MA

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