By Joseph A. Curtatone
(The opinions and views expressed in the commentaries of The Somerville News belong solely to the authors of those commentaries and do not reflect the views or opinions of The Somerville News, its staff or publishers.)
With more emotion than he usually displays, President Obama summoned us all to action last Sunday night: “If there’s even one step we can take to save another child or another parent or another town from the grief that’s visited Tucson and Aurora and Oak Creek and Newtown and communities from Columbine to Blacksburg before that, then surely we have an obligation to try. In the coming weeks, I’ll use whatever power this office holds to engage my fellow citizens, from law enforcement, to mental health professionals, to parents and educators, in an effort aimed at preventing more tragedies like this, because what choice do we have? We can’t accept events like this as routine.”
After the latest mass killing by a lone gunman, this kind of effort is exactly what needs to happen. Shame on any one of us who fails to join in, and shame especially on any elected officials afraid of the political consequences of an honest discussion about guns and violence. As a member of the Mayors Against Illegal Guns coalition, I am eager for the President’s effort to get under way, and for this nation to explore and embrace a full range of policy solutions that can reduce the frequency with which one American kills dozens of others in the blink of an eye.
But in the meantime, in the wake of the horrific school shootings in Newtown, Connecticut, there are a few important things that every Somerville parent and every Somerville child should know about our city and its people:
First, you should know that your schools and your public safety agencies understand the need for preparedness, for security and for vigilance. Somerville has well-designed protocols in place to keep our schools safe. We practice them, we update them, and we take them very, very seriously.
Second, you need to know that our city’s teachers, police officers and firefighters – and even many of its everyday residents – would unhesitatingly give their lives to protect the children of this community. Never doubt this: We are surrounded by people who care for us and will do their best to protect us. That should be a source of comfort and strength to us all.
Third, gun crime has declined significantly in Somerville in recent years. Indeed, violent crime of all kinds is down. There are still shootings – even one is too many – and there are too many illegal guns out there, but we are making real progress in reducing the risks they pose to our community.
Fourth and perhaps most important: Whether their weapons are rapid-fire rifles or fuel-laden jet planes, the hateful acts of the very evil or the utterly deranged can hurt us – sometimes almost unbearably – but they cannot destroy us. The only way we can be destroyed, as a community or as a nation, is if we do it to ourselves.
If we give in to despair and cynicism; if we embrace the sad and empty belief that there is no such thing as the public interest; if we believe that the only way to ensure our own safety is to inspire fear in everybody else; if we see ourselves as victims without hope or the power to change for the better, then we are truly lost in the darkness.
But even now, in their darkest hour, I do not think the people of Newtown feel that way about themselves or their community.
This remains a time of great sorrow. As the President has reminded us, this could have happened anywhere: “[T]hese neighborhoods are our neighborhoods, and these children are our children.” It is only right that we all share in that sorrow. But that sorrow cannot quench our hope, our determination, our love for one another, and our belief in shared progress.
That hope, that love and that faith in one another is our light in the darkness – our tidings of comfort and joy.
(To learn more about Mayors Against Illegal Guns, and to add your voice to their call for a national plan to reduce the incidence of gun violence, visit http://www.demandaplan.org/newtown.)