Back in dark, cold January, still deeply disturbed by the Newtown massacre of innocents and its aftermath in communities across the nation, pondering what all of it says about America, I decided to address the subject in the spring issue of Confrontation. Soon afterwards, and quite coincidentally, the magazine's poetry editor, Belinda Kremer, informed me she had selected the winner of our 2013 Poetry Prize. Robert Synderman's quiet, elegiac poem "Monastery for Sandy Hook Children and Teachers" will be found heading up the poetry section of this issue.
The poem names no names and provides no answers to this national tragedy, which should have been, and perhaps was briefly, an epiphany, a brilliant spotlight that promised to transform this violence-ridden, gun-besotted land we Americans call home. Written one day after the horror that gave rise to it, it is a quiet, halting poem filled with fragments--fragments of memory, of thought and emotion, of sentences and phrases. The voice speaking to us seems to reflect a mind that is stunned almost to the point of disbelief; it stops and starts repeatedly, as if the pieces of that Friday in December could not be made to cohere, could not form a narrative or picture anyone could bear to look at. It is likely even today that many of the parents and families of the very young children and their teachers who were slaughtered also want to look away, to not look back; turning away becomes a method enabling one to get up in the morning, to plod through the bitter days, devoid of the laughter and sweetness of children, whatever their age.
And perhaps, far from being transformative, a day that reshaped the national consciousness, a day that created a national conscience and that led to simple, commonsense action, most of us have turned away as well. It may be we have become inured to massacres of this sort; after all, there have been so many of them. And even when we are free of the mass carnage guns can wreak, there is a steady pulse of one-by-one ordinary murders or suicides by firearms--nothing remarkable, nothing particularly worth our attention-moving through the national body.
In April, demonstrators outside an annual NRA meeting in Houston--who were no more effective than the Sandy Hook parents who came to Washington, DC, as Congress met to consider and then reject eminently sensible and very limited efforts to stem the bloodletting--did name names: those of the 4,000 people whose lives were ended by gun violence in the eighteen weeks since the massacre. Fortunately for firearms manufacturers and for the leadership of the National Rifle Association and the Gun Owners of America (of "the only no-compromise gun lobby in Washington" fame or infamy), a different kind of carnage occurred in Boston only months after Sandy Hook, apparently displacing the earlier tragedy in people's minds and hearts, deflecting any anger or anxiety that we felt to the ultimate Other--terrorists--and away from the Other in ourselves.
Indeed, if one searches...
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