instead I’ll unpack here.
Definition of UNPACKtransitive verb12: to remove or undo from packing or a container <unpackedhis gear>3: to analyze the nature of by examining in detail :explicate<unpack a concept>
I have been thankfully too busy, or preoccupied, at least, to hyperfocus on the tragedy of Newtown. Passing by the area on the way home today made it hard to avoid thinking about it. Seeing any of the millions of articles online/on air made it harder yet.
We want to be able to do something; wave our magic wand and make it all better. Make it so that it never happens again. Wave our children, or at least ourselves, into a false sense of security, re-patch the bubble of pretense.
Jonathan Tobin said it well about this impulse to respond in Commentary:
But what we don’t think about in these days of shock and grief is whether the proposals floated during such times have more to do with our need to feel in control of events than a rational plan of action. The “don’t just stand there, do something” impulse is natural in politicians who always wish to be seen as having the answers. But the notion that we can legislate or preach such insane acts out of existence may reflect our unwillingness to appear helpless in the face of evil or madness more than anything else.
The idea that we can’t do something about incidents such as Newtown makes us feel small and helpless and is rejected out of hand. At such times as these, those who preach sensible caution about legislation rather than knee-jerk action are dismissed as naysayers and defenders of an indefensible status quo. Americans are a people who like solutions, not philosophical discourses about terrible events. We crave leaders who will tell us they have answers.
Perhaps anger about Newtown and other incidents will be enough to help pass far-reaching restrictions on gun ownership or influence the entertainment industry to change its ways. But the only likely outcome is that schools will be transformed into fortresses even more than they already were. The rhetoric we hear after Newtown, as it is after all senseless crimes, will make many of us feel better and allow politicians to pretend that they are doing something. But the impulse to respond will be about our desire to have the illusion of control over uncontrollable events.
I shudder to think of how I would have responded, if it happened while I was still teaching–would I be as quick-minded and brave as those teachers? I know I won’t pass any judgment on that mother, even if I cannot fathom the need for such guns in anyone’s house. There are quite a few articles about Israel and its gun salience, but, from what I can tell (see Ezra Klein learning this here), the truth seems to be that Israel limits its guns more and more, making it less likely that this kind of tragedy will occur.
So I’ll just post two photos I took with my new smartphone from when I took the big kiddies to the Please Touch Museum in Philadelphia, and I’ll let you draw your own conclusion about the power of play.
I know it’s not enough, clearly. But let’s play with it a bit before we proffer any ideas that just won’t work.