Monday, December 17, 2012

Thoughts And Prayers Are Not Enough

As anyone who has ever had to get little kids - or even bigger kids - out the door in the morning, there are few times more stressful than the last few minutes before the school bus comes down the street.

TigerBlog can't count the number of times that he thought there was plenty of time, only to have to wildly rush at the last minute to throw waffles into mouths, books into backpacks, lunches into bags, shoes onto feet, jackets onto bodies - and then make the final sprint to the bus stop.

And then, just when it appeared that the entire morning schedule was going to be thrown off, kids and bus converge at the same time, and off they go to school.

For the ones putting them on the bus, it's a moment of great relaxation, knowing that the mad scramble to get everyone out the door has come and gone, again successfully, and now the rest of the day - the adult part of the day - can begin. 

In all the times in all the years that TB watched the school bus roll away, there was never, ever, ever the remotest thought that he'd seen those kids for the last time, that some deeply disturbed, deeply maniacal, heavily armed person was going to walk into the school and start shooting, not caring in the least who was on the receiving end of the carnage.

For that matter, when TB was a student himself, he never had one second where he didn't feel safe in the school building, at least from a murderous attack from an intruder.

TigerBlog noticed Friday morning that there was a headline of a school shooting in Connecticut, and his first reaction as the same as always - oh no, not again, hopefully nobody was killed.

Then it turned out to be an elementary school, one less than two hours drive from Princeton.

Then it turned out to be 27 dead, including 20 children. Two weeks before Christmas.

How can anyone walk into a school and just start shooting at those angelic faces? What level of mental illness can there be to do that?

TB checked the news updates every few seconds to see what new information there was, and what he learned was that in the face of this tragedy, the American media embarrassed itself like never before.

First, there were two shooters. Then it was the other brother. Then it was the mother's classroom.

Basically, in the name of giving information first, the media just threw anything it could out there. In the end, almost all of it was wrong.

Also, it obviously had to become politicized even as the actual facts were starting to come out, with an instant debate on gun control and whether stronger gun laws would have deterred this horrific event.

TB was listening to Mike Francesa on WFAN as caller after caller spoke about their guns and how safe they are and the proper training and storage and all, leaving TB to wonder whether or not they realized that any actual point they had was being lost in the insensitivity of the moment. Eventually, Francesa, much to his credit, cut a caller off and said something about not wanting to hear anything else about somebody and their guns, that he'd had enough.

And now? The media can't put out pictures of the children fast enough, maybe motivated by honoring them in some way but also clearly exploiting them.

TB has read some of the stories of the heroics of the principal and some of the teachers who died trying to save the kids, and he cannot imagine what the moment must have been like.

And it's left him wondering what's next.

Is it all lip service?

Yes, it's nice that so many people have said that their "thoughts and prayers' are with the victims and their families. It's nice that so many people had written the name of Sandy Hook Elementary School on their sneakers or hats during professional sporting events.

President Obama was clearly moved by what happened, as much because he is as well the parent of a two school-age girls. His words on Friday were emotional and heartfelt, as were his words yesterday in Newtown.

But now what will he do? Is he ready to pursue what the right to bear arms actually means and doesn't mean? Is he ready to challenge a very powerful lobby, ready to take on legislators in both parties?

Is he ready to attack the mass media-produced culture of violence in movies and especially video games, which have completely desensitized so many people to the reality of what happens when bullet touches flesh?

This time, words won't cut it. Not after what happened Friday, an event so beyond the realm of comprehension that it appears to have shaken the country more than any event since 9/11.
Is the country ready to do something about it? Or are there just too many people who want to close their eyes, hope it doesn't happen to them and then go about their business with their iPhones and DVRs and vacations?

What does this have to do with Princeton Athletics?

Nothing, and everything.

Nothing, because this is a local tragedy that has nothing to do with college athletics. And everything, because it's touched every segment of American society.

For 30 years, TigerBlog has been able to hide from some of the realities of his own life that he wanted to put off dealing with in the moment because there has always been another game to go to, another game to write about, another event to occupy his mind and take him away from it all.

And then reality always reappears. It can no longer simply be hidden from, not even in a blog about college athletics that would much prefer to tell funny stories and then talk about what's going on in sports at Princeton.

So it's good to know that there are ways to get away from it all, but it doesn't change the reality of what's going on in this country now.

TigerBlog had to take Miss TigerBlog to the orthodontist recently. The front door to the school is locked, and he has to press a buzzer to get into the building. He assumes there is some hidden camera whereby the person pushing the button can see who's coming in first.

But there are also glass windows in every classroom, and side doors and such. In other words, anyone who wants to get into that school - or any school - is probably going to be successful.

It's never dawned on TB that somebody might want to actually do so. Not in that neighborhood. Not in that school. Not in his life.

Mercifully, the odds against it happening there are miniscule, just like they are any place else.

As TB tries to comprehend the sickening atrocity that occurred at another school that had those same miniscule odds, he's also left to wonder what this country - and its leaders - are willing to do, or can do for that matter, to drop them to zero.

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