If We Could See the Children of Sandy Hook

by Bob Schwartz

Sandy Hook School
Early in the Iraq War, President Bush tried to block taking pictures of the arrival of the coffins of fallen soldiers at Dover Air Force Base. The proposal was couched as a gesture of respect to the families, but the real point was to shield citizens from the ultimate cost of war.

There are different opinions on the impact of viewing carnage, fictional and real. Does constant exposure immunize us from taking violence seriously? Would we pursue wars so readily, or at least try to better distinguish the necessary from the chosen, if we were bombarded by those images? If we saw footage of the early days of the camps in real time, would we have allowed the Holocaust to proceed?

The images of the children killed at Sandy Hook School in Newtown are blocked from us. This choice is almost beyond argument. We have heard the reaction of those who did witness the aftermath, and even those who have participated in war said that scene was worse. We are protecting the dignity of those lives unlived and respecting the immeasurable grief of the families. Our imaginations are already enough to rend our hearts.

And so instead we have pictures of those children as they are remembered, beautiful angels, joy and potential, and we have the testimony and imploring of their parents. But somehow, this doesn’t seem to be quite enough to stop abstract arguments about the essential value of the Second Amendment, how it must continue unconditioned even by sensible restrictions that meet moral, practical and constitutional muster. First they come for my AR-15, this line goes, and next the deer and the police will be hunting me.

There is a way to end this argument, though for good reasons we will not do it. If we ever get to see the killing field at Sandy Hook, there will be little more talk of a free trade in assault weapons and big ammunition clips. There may be talk, but it will be silenced by a new and more powerful outrage. The NRA might try to keep repeating a mantra that is already falling on more deaf ears, and some of their political operatives will follow. But the vast majority of Americans will move from just saying the right thing to a pollster to demanding that the right thing be done. Now.

If we could, as we won’t, see the children.