America, Don’t Close Your Eyes

By Pam Martens: December 17, 2012 

The photograph of the young children being led away from the Newtown, Connecticut elementary school with their eyes closed, hand placed upon the shoulder of the child in front of them, will be seared into our memory banks for the remainder of our lives.  It’s one of those photographs that capture and help to define both America’s history and her future: like the May 4, l970 photograph of the stunned, sobbing female student at Kent State kneeling next to her dead classmate — killed because the Ohio National Guard decided to open fire with live ammunition against students protesting the Vietnam War. Four students died with nine others wounded. 

The students were protesting that day because their President, Richard Nixon, had lied to them – he had promised hope and change and an end to the Vietnam War in his election campaign, then escalated the war by invading Cambodia.  The killings at Kent State led to a nationwide student strike that closed hundreds of colleges and universities. 

The young elementary school children in Newtown, along with their teachers and support staff, were told to close their eyes as they were escorted out of the building by police.  It was an act of kindness and medical precaution to prevent shock and additional emotional trauma from the horrific scene of death inside their school – a center of learning which has delivered an indelible lesson on violence in America. 

As the grieving across the Nation subsides, there will be a quest for answers.  Right now, that focus is centered on the 20-year old gunman with emotional problems, Adam Lanza, who took his own life at the scene.  That myopic focus is so very wrong. 

As George Zornick reports at The Nation, there have been 12 mass shootings this year, taking the lives of 88 individuals, including those in Newtown.  The killings have occurred at schools, universities, the workplace, spas,  a theatre and other common locations.  In every instance, one word describes the motive: hate.  The killers hated their classmates or coworkers or society at large and sought revenge. 

The same kind of hate obsession motivated Andrew Kehoe to commit the worst school massacre in U.S. history on May 18, 1927 in Bath, Michigan.  His weapon was dynamite, not guns.  Kehoe was obsessed with hatred over the levying of property taxes to pay for the school as he struggled to keep his farm.  His farm was in foreclosure when he committed the unspeakable act which claimed the lives of 45 individuals, 38 of whom were children.  Like Lanza, Kehoe’s rein of assault began at his own home where he brutally murdered his wife.  Lanza murdered the person closest to him, his mother, Nancy. 

America is a divided country today – divided along political and socio-economic lines.  The stresses of losing homes and jobs and hope while witnessing Wall Street’s continuing looting is taking a deleterious toll on the mental health of millions of Americans.  When hope dies, hate often fills the void. 

President Obama promised the Newtown community to use “whatever power this office holds” to prevent future mass shootings.  For the President to succeed, he must look deeper than assault weapons and meaningfully address the largest wealth inequality in the history of the Nation. 

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