Is there anywhere in the world more people throw themselves more enthusiastically into the impossible task of creating a perfect, goofy, schmaltzy, stuff-your-face, nostalgic Christmas day than in the United States of America? It’s classic folksy film moments full of snowballs and singing and grandparents and grateful kids people are after, not reality, and a giant effort is made every year to provide them. For the shootings at Sandy Hook School, Newport, Connecticut to occur when a large percentage of the entire nation is trying hard to make out – just for a couple of days – that things are better than they are, that it’s okay to be hopeful and innocent and optimistic, seems too terribly cruel.
I was in Fort Worth, in a mall full of children when the news of the shooting broke, and there was disbelief that one troubled person could take Christmas away. The gun debate rumbled on on the car radio for days afterwards. It was impossible not to be brought low by the pain the families were enduring, but also by the polarised predictability of the argument between normal people and people – including the priest whose own church had been caught up in a previous mass shooting – who think it’s okay to have an assault rifle lying around the house just in case. Obviously I don’t have a solution or a suggestion here other than to not have assault rifles lying about. It’s a mess.
By Sunday during Obama’s live broadcast to the nation and the grieving parents, it seemed people were bored with being sympathetic. The customers at the bar I was in shouted throughout the address for the f**king football to be put back on. I found attitudes to (non-hunting) gun ownership shocking, the shooting shocking, the defence of gun ownership shocking – but this stupid disrespect most chilling of all.