In case you missed it, here is Alex Grant's article Is America Great? that appeared in the December 20th edition of the Longmeadow News (with permission of the author and thanks to the Longmeadow News). It reflects sentiments that many of us have after last week's tragedy.
In the wake of the Newtown shootings, I am beginning to wonder, for the first time in my life, whether America can be a great country. In my lifespan, we have endured the tragedy of Vietnam, the shame of Watergate, the prospect of nuclear annihilation by the Soviet Union, the shock of the 9/11 attacks, and three wars in the Middle East. Through it all, I have remained steadfast that we are, as our Puritan forebear John Winthrop said, a "city upon a hill." I have read the story of our nation as the history of a people called to a higher purpose, as expressed in the Mayflower Compact, the Constitution, and in our current form of government.
American courage and ingenuity, displayed for generations, from the War of Independence to World War II to the Cold War, have been placed in service to the rest of the world and to ourselves. I have always thought that the arc of our history bends upward, and it lends credence to the idea of the perfectibility of mankind. I question all of that now.
Whatever aspirations we may have for shared prosperity, the health and happiness of our people, or even social justice, none of them matter so long as small children can be slaughtered en masse and so long as the survivors and the rest of society must live in apprehension, and with the knowledge, that such a mass killing will happen again. When the Declaration of Independence said that we are all endowed with the unalienable rights to "Life, Liberty, and the Pursuit of Happiness," it was no mistake that "Life" came first.
The question now is whether Newtown will be simply added to the list, or whether Americans will act, and act now, to prevent their children from being massacred. If we do not act now, we will never act. And while our children have, for years, been killed one by one, in incidents so commonplace that the newspapers often do not even notice, the choice of whether to live in fear, or to do something about it, has never been so clear.
That is the great task before us. We have before faced and overcome greater tasks, but we cannot doubt that this is a moment of reckoning for our country. The issue is nothing less than whether the honored dead in Newtown will die in vain. Sympathy, prayers, and grief are not enough. Killings like these must stop. If the deaths of the Newtown kids do not matter, then we as a country are dead inside too, and God have mercy on us all.
Alex J. Grant is a lawyer living in Longmeadow.
His email address is firstname.lastname@example.org.