Ronnie Polaneczky: UNCOMFORTABLY NUMB: No tears left for Newtown massacre

Emilie Parker, 6
Emilie Parker, 6
Posted: December 19, 2012

SOMETHING IS wrong with me. I've yet to weep for the victims of the Newtown massacre. And I usually cry at everything. Just ask my co-workers.

But I didn't feel a thing when I heard the father of 6-year-old Emilie Parker describe how his softhearted little girl had loved to make greeting cards for those having a bad day.

I barely blinked when I read that tiny Charlotte Bacon died wearing her new pink dress and boots.

I couldn't squeeze out a lone tear for sweet-voiced Ana Marquez-Greene, who sings "Come, Thou Almighty King" in a family video that is going viral.

It's like something has broken inside me. Or maybe there are finite cups of empathic tears the human eye can spill over the massacre of innocents. Maybe, after the bloodshed of Tucson, Aurora and Seal Beach, of Fort Hood, Nickel Mines and Columbine, I've no grief left for poor Newtown.

Or maybe my heart just won't let me go there.

But, oh, do I have questions.

I have unanswerable ones for Adam Lanza's survivalist mother, Nancy, who had been stockpiling food and arms, including an assault weapon like one used by troops in Afghanistan. She was convinced America was hurtling toward Armageddon.

In the last week, reports say, she'd gotten really worried about Adam, whose always strange behavior was becoming alarming. Given his fragile psyche, did she not once think to hide her semiautomatic rifle?

He wound up using one of her guns to kill her. Then he brought Armageddon to Newtown.

I'm bewildered that we appear to be more collectively anguished by the death of 20 children murdered by guns in Newtown than we are by the deaths of 3,892 children murdered by guns in America in 2008 and 2009. (Those are the latest years for which statistics are available from the U.S. Centers for Disease Control.)

Apparently, we're so used to the slaughter, it registers as a horror only when it happens in one fell swoop. If Adam Lanza had roamed the country, killing a child a month for 20 months, would we even know their names?

And I have questions for conservative pundit and NRA darling Joe Scarborough, host of MSNBC's "Morning Joe."

He suddenly altered his pro-gun stance Monday, saying that Friday's massacre "changed everything" about his past, unbridled support of the Second Amendment.

"Our Bill of Rights does not guarantee gun manufacturers the absolute right to sell military-styled, high-caliber semiautomatic combat assault rifles with high-capacity magazines to whoever the hell they want!" he thundered, as though he were the first person ever to think such a thing.

Scarborough confessed that this was a wild turnabout from his former "libertarian beliefs" about gun ownership, which were of the "guns don't kill people; people kill people" variety. Those beliefs endured, he said, through the massacres at Ruby Ridge and Waco in the early '90s, right up to those in Tucson and Aurora, in the last two years.

This time, he confessed, the carnage felt personal. Newtown is close to his hometown. The average age of his four kids is close to that of the children killed at Sandy Hook Elementary School. And his son has Asperger syndrome, the autism spectrum disorder that afflicted Adam Lanza.

I'm glad that Scarborough has seen the light. If we're to prevent another Newtown, it will require conservatives like him to thumb their nose at the NRA loonies. Maybe his conversion will give others the fortitude to do the same.

But I'm appalled that this issue had to feel personal to Scarborough before he could take a stand. Did the victims really have to look enough like his own loved ones before he could imagine the terror that victims of pre-Newtown massacres felt?

Before last Friday, where was the man's imagination? Or heart?

The slain babies of Newtown helped him find it, apparently. Just as I hope they will help others find the heart, too, to say that enough is enough. And then to act upon it in ways that keep all of us - not just those who resemble those we love - safe from harm.

When that day comes, I might, finally, be able to cry.


Email: polaner@phillynews.com

Phone: 215-854-2217

On Twitter: @RonniePhilly

Blog: philly.com/ronnieblog

Columns: philly.com/Ronnie

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