Coming to grips with Newtown
It’s been a week since the shootings at the school in Connecticut, and I’m still not able to come to grips with it. I’d been skiing, and came off the mountain after a day of fun with friends. All was right with the world until I heard the news driving home. I couldn’t sleep that night.
Saturday, I went up skiing without having arranged to meet anybody phone calls were more than I could muster that morning. All I knew was that I had to get away from the news. Riding up the lift, the other guy on the chair, who I didn’t know, brought it up. He said that he had been unable to sleep, and that the feeling was like he had experienced on 9/11.
I had not thought of the comparison, but he was absolutely right. I didn’t know anybody directly involved in either event. The only connection was through the news, and through humanity. It was, and still is, that numbing weight of something horrible and completely incomprehensible.
A morning of good skiing seemed to clear my head a little. At lunch, a couple of little kids were clomping around the lodge in their ski boots, full of wiggles, making faces and noise and being little kids. It was all I could do to resist giving them a big bear hug.
Monday morning, as I was driving through Woodland, Francis and Kamas, there were kids standing at the corners waiting for the school bus as usual. How parents could find the courage that morning to send them out there is beyond me. But they did, and that simple act of doing the most mundane and routine stuff was about the most courageous thing imaginable.
Logically, you know the odds of that happening to you or your kid are less than a lightning strike. It’s not the odds that cause the worry — it’s the stakes. You can protect against the known risks in life. There’s not much you can do about something completely random.
I certainly don’t know the solution to this. Register guns. Register psychopaths. Ban assault weapons. Equip everybody with an assault weapon. Ban crazy people video games Schwarzenegger movies. Arm teachers. Arm children. Metal detectors. Mental detectors. There are a million ideas being thrown at it. Most of them are in that "last possible line of defense" territory. If we need to have kindergarten teachers trained as snipers, we have simply failed as a society. The problem isn’t security at the school or shopping mall, hospital, or workplace, just to list a few of the crazy-person-mass-shooting locations of the month. That’s the symptom of something that seems to run much deeper. It’s not acceptable to me to live in a society where we accept this as inevitable or routine and address it with protocols and defensive measures. Other civilized people don’t have a mass-shooting episode on a monthly basis. What is wrong with us? Surely the Second Amendment doesn’t mean we have to live with this.
Christmas is coming anyway, ready or not. I’m not having an easy time getting into the mood for it. I’ve basically got things ready, or at least as ready as they are going to get.
In an effort to bend the spirit a little more in the jolly direction, I’ve got the car radio tuned to one of those stations that plays Christmas music — news free. It’s not really getting the job done. After a week of it, I’ve come to the conclusion that there are really only about ten Christmas songs, and they can only be performed by a few artists. Trying to write something new, or an artist doing a traditional song that is outside their range, and working it into the Christmas lineup seldom works. Christmas is highly traditional, and you don’t mess with it.
The last legitimate addition to the playlist was probably "Rudolph the Red Nose Reindeer," and that debuted in 1949. There’s really no reason to revise the list again. We have enough, thanks. Paul McCartney really contributes nothing to the program. Smash Mouth needn’t bother; we’ve got it covered.
One of the strangest songs I’ve heard was a duet with Rod Stewart and Dolly Parton singing "Baby It’s Cold Outside." That’s not really a Christmas song, but you only hear it played this time of year. It’s become pretty dated, and only works because it’s stuck in the gooey layer of holiday nostalgia. There’s no getting rid of it now. But Rod Stewart and Dolly Parton together is just plain creepy. Actually, Rod Stewart and Dolly Parton, on their own, are a little creepy after all these years. There are some duets that should never happen and that is one of them.
Gathering with friends and family seems more important this year. Have a great Christmas. Hug your kids.
Tom Clyde practiced law in Park City for many years. He lives on a working ranch in Woodland and has been writing this column since 1986.
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