May Their Memory Be for a Blessing
On the front page of this morning’s Denver Post a picture of Veronique Pozner, mother of Sandy Hook Elementary School victim Noah Pozner, at Noah’s gravesite at B’nai Israel Cemetery in Monroe, Connecticut, assaults me as I sit down to drink my morning coffee. Veronique stands next to her rabbi, and my eyes are drawn to his kippah. And I’d thought, that perhaps, I was going to be able to start this day without crying.
We are a nation that can’t stop crying. For Noah and the other gorgeous, good six- and seven-year-olds senselessly gunned down last Friday at their elementary school. For Veronique and the other mothers who are enduring that most unnatural, unfathomable, horrendous loss, the loss of a child. For the fathers, sisters, brothers, grandparents, friends, neighbors, community and country of children taken way before their time. For the kind, noble teachers in a town that could be my town, or yours.
And as we cry for the victims of Newtown, we also lament this tragedy as part of a trend – a trend of violence in our country that threatens all who believe that the values of respect for others must be paramount in American life.
The Torah teaches, “Do not stand idly by the blood of your neighbor.” Noah Pozner, his schoolmates, and his teachers – they were our neighbors. So we ask ourselves, what can we do?
We know we can’t do what we did after Columbine, after Virgina Tech, after Aurora. We know that we can’t just grieve for the victims, hug our children, and then send them off to school praying that it doesn’t happen to us.
The gun murder rate in the United States is almost 20 times higher than the next 22 richest and most populous nations combined. Every one of those nations has stricter gun control laws than the U.S. Add together all the gun deaths in the 23 wealthiest countries in the world, and 80 percent of those are American deaths. Of all the children killed by guns in those nations, 87 percent are American. So we implore our friends who respond to our renewed commitment for reasonable gun control laws with defense of the Second Amendment: Surely this is not what the founders had in mind.
And to those who say, it's not guns that kill but people, I offer the words of President Obama at the interfaith vigil in Newtown on Sunday night, "No single law or set of laws can eliminate evil from the world, but that can't be an excuse for inaction."
Aristotle said, "Anyone can become angry—that is easy. But to be angry with the right person, to the right degree, at the right time, for the right purpose, and the right way, this is not easy."
We must try to wipe our tears and embrace our anger. We are better than this. Guns are too pervasive in our society and too easily obtained by those with mental illness, despicable goals, or both. Abiding by the principles of the Constitution does need to be incompatible with sensible gun control.
As Jews, as mothers, as citizens, as human beings, we must call on our lawmakers to take all available measures to ensure the safety of our children.
Zichrona l’vracha, may their memory be for a blessing.
Ana M. Marquez-Greene
Madeleine F. Hsu
Catherine V. Hubbard
Anne Marie Murphy
Allison N. Wyatt