When a gunman opened fire on Sandy Hook Elementary School in Newtown, Connecticut on Friday December 14th, he did much more than make history as the second deadliest school shooter in American history . He did more, even, than steal the lives of at least twenty children–along with six adults–who were far too young to be confronted with such unfathomable cruelty and darkness. Reminiscent of the Aurora, Colorado movie theater shooting last July, this gunman has and will always serve as a reminder that despite the political patchwork that makes up our country, we are one in the face of tragedy.
As the country attempts to grapple with something so senseless and agonizing, our increasing polarization falls away as each of us asks ourselves the same unanswerable questions: why? And furthermore, what next?
One question has inevitably surfaced already: does this catastrophe justify the need for stricter gun control? As White House Spokesman Jay Carney adequately put it, however, there will be a day “for discussion of the usual Washington policy debates…but I don’t think today is that day.” Yes, as a nation, it could be argued that we are divided, especially on issues as charged as gun control. But in the midst of a tragedy as heart-wrenching as this, Carney says it best: politics will be here tomorrow. Today, all that we can offer is “enormous sympathy” for all of those affected .
Simply by logging onto virtually any form of social media today, one is instantly reminded of the underlying unity that connects us all—Democrats, Republicans, Independents, and everything in between. On Twitter, for example, “#PrayforNewtown” is already trending, reinforcing the fact that while we may hold different political opinions and values, each of us is one under a common label: we are all Americans.
Mere hours ago, the biggest issue that seemed to face our nation was the looming fiscal cliff that, if not resolved, could potentially spark another recession . While this issue is not unimportant, on days like today we must set aside our differences and remind ourselves that even those with clashing political beliefs share an underlying concern for the welfare of the country. Policy debates and pointing fingers cannot reverse the clock or ease the suffering of so many devastated families.
Politics, by definition, revolves around conflict and debate. And while the argumentative facet of American politics is crucial to the health of our democracy, equally important is the American public’s ability to cease fire when necessary. Politicians and citizens alike may disagree on the future of the government and the American economy, but these differences are much less pronounced in the wake of the Newtown shooting. What matters most today is not who we voted for in the election last month or the role we believe the government should play in our society. Today, we are simultaneously torn apart and united by a tragedy that has impacted not just Newtown but the country as a whole as we connect through sympathy and kind words.
[Image credit: http://usnews.nbcnews.com/_news/2012/12/14/15909827-connecticut-school-shooting-is-second-worst-in-us-history?lite]