Politicizing a National Tragedy: How Soon is Too Soon?

Posted By Gaby

These last few days have been pretty terrible. What’s happened in Newtown, CT, is terrifying and surely one of the worst things that has happened in the U.S. in recent years. I can’t imagine how tough it must feel to be a resident of Newtown, much less a parent of a victim at Sandy Hook Elementary.

Upon learning about what occurred, like most folks, I was able to gather some information on social media and online news. But the worst of what I gathered from social media was the opinions of various people on this tragedy. Depending on which side of the political spectrum people were in, I either saw posts on protecting the Second Amendment or bringing God back into the schools or about why we needed gun control. Sure, there were many people sending their condolences to those affected, but there were many—too many if you ask me—bringing politics into the situation. In my opinion, turning a tragedy into a political discussion so soon after it occurs is not okay. Even as I write this, I feel wrong, like I’m using someone’s tragedy for personal gain.

I get that people are outraged by what happened and by how close this was to another shooting in Oregon and the shooting during the midnight release of The Dark Knight. I’m just as upset as any other citizen who hasn’t been directly impacted by these tragedies. It’s infuriating that there are people out there that are so damaged or deranged that they can harm people in these ways. I also agree that we need to do something about how easy it is to access assault weapons, as well as provide better support to those with mental health issues, but I don’t agree that right now is the correct time to have these discussions.

“So when’s a good time for this discussion?” is what many are saying. Many argue that this has happened too often and we’ve never truly discussed this, and I agree. But, I also feel those who are mourning have the right to at least bury their loved ones before they have to hear that the general public is using their tragedy to discuss God or gun control. Given how social media makes it easy for everyone to give their point of view, get their meme to travel the interweb like wildfire, or to forward their favorite politico’s opinion, there’s really no time to breathe, to mourn as a society, and to look at how we can try to keep things like this from happening again. The last time I think we truly did that was on 9/11 and you can argue that it was because of the magnitude of the tragedy or because social media wasn’t as rampant as it is now. Whatever the reason, I think we need that and we need to give those mourning from tragedy that right.

Sure, we want to solve these issues, but as Gaby Lopez Chavez, am I really going to solve the issue of gun control with a post or two on my Facebook page?

Social media can have a strong impact on making major political change and shifts in paradigms, so I support people using it for those purposes. But right now isn’t the time. In a few weeks, most of us will move on and focus on the other issues affecting us. Some of us will continue to argue about gun control, others won’t. Most importantly, those affected by this won’t move on as quickly as we will. If nothing more, they deserve the respect to mourn, to feel supported and to know we stand by them, not to have their tragedy become yet another point of political contention amongst us as a society.

If you want to help those affected by Newtown, CT, you can. This brief article from msn.com has some information on what you can do.

Posted By Wendy

The horrifying events of last week are still too raw, still too unfathomable for us as a nation to comprehend, but in order for us to heal and for our country to become a better place for our children to grow up in, we’ve got to try and understand what happened. Perhaps the wounds are fresh, but if our history has taught us anything, it’s that if we don’t call for action while the topic is hot, it can quickly be replaced and supplanted by those who seek to manipulate the vulnerable.

9/11 is actually a perfect example.  Yes, we were mourning, we were terrified, and we couldn’t comprehend how such a monumental act of terrorism could occur on our soil, in the beating heart of our country, New York City. For a brief period in time, the nation was united in purpose. Yet, instead of its citizens standing up and taking action, we were steamrolled by the political agenda of the neoconservatives in the right wing. We hurried to war with Afghanistan and then hurried to war with Iraq (a war we now know was launched on completely unfounded principle and falsified evidence). The result of our inaction was a nation forever changed. A nation plunged into fear and darkness. A nation that has spent the better part of 11 years picking up the pieces of those mistakes.

Do the parents and families and friends and community of Newtown, CT, deserve to mourn in peace? Absolutely. The tone deaf grandstanding of many in social media is not only in bad taste, it does us a disservice in having a meaningful discussion about the implications of this tragedy. But that doesn’t mean we shouldn’t talk about them. That we shouldn’t “politicize” them. We need to dig deep and figure out not only what we can do logistically to prevent something like this from happening again (stricter gun laws and improvements in mental health are certainly a start, but they only scratch at the surface), but also what elements of our culture have allowed such horrific events to become nearly commonplace.

Prior to Columbine, which happened in 1999, our country didn’t know much about school shootings. But reaching as far back as the 1700s, school shootings have occurred throughout our history. Sadly, this is not a new phenomenon. So when do we talk about this, America? How much time is enough time? Do you think 200 years is enough?

I, for one, am glad that people are talking about this. Already it seems like public opinion is swaying those in positions of power. The NRA, typically a vocal supporter of Second Amendment rights in the wake of school shootings, has stayed mum. They are expected to release a statement pledging to help prevent future school shootings on Friday. President Obama and others in Congress have already made statements about the need for change. I, as Wendy Garofoli Zamora, cannot necessarily affect change from my one or two Facebook posts. But I, along with millions of others on social media, can make our collective voices heard.

And finally, I’ll leave you with one last thought. If, God forbid, it were my child who perished in an attack, I would want solace that would never come, but I would also want action. I would fight with every fiber in my being to make sure this never happened again. And I would start by voicing my opinion, even if it’s only in 140 characters or less.

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One Response to “Politicizing a National Tragedy: How Soon is Too Soon?”

  1. Bill

    I guess you’re aware that saying “you shouldn’t politicize the issue” is a political tactic, right?

    Explain to me why we need military-spec semi-automatic rifles on the streets of any Connecticut city? And if it takes a tragedy like Newtown to emphasize this fact, why shouldn’t people use it while it’s still fresh in the minds of the public?

    The American people have notoriously short memories. By next month, we’ll be back to monster truck rallies and Honey Boo-boo, and there won’t be a chance to get 30-round magazines out of the hands of criminals any more.

    There’s an old trope that dates back to the days of blacksmithing: “strike while the iron is hot.”

    Yes, it’s a political tactic. But so is yours: the phrase “Politicizing a National Tragedy” and asking “How Soon is Too Soon?” is a tactic used by the NRA to stall the discussion, because people will go back to the status quo far too soon.


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