Saturday, January 5, 2013

the Sandy Hook rules

    We shudder over the shooting deaths of 20 children and 6 teachers at the Sandy Hook elementary school.  And yet I’ve been to the movie theater four times over the holidays.  Each time, my fellow movie-goers, who surely gazed sadly at the Newtown massacre’s coverage on their TV sets less than 3 weeks ago, now gaze wide-eyed, and full of anticipation, as the previews titillate with – gunfire, slaughtering a dozen, forty or more.  Don’t miss this next thrilling action-packed adventure!  Shoot ‘em up! 

     I learned a few years ago that it’s risky to talk about guns:  I penned a column asking if Jesus would join the NRA, if he would go to a gun show and drool over the quality of the firearms.  I didn’t even answer Yes or No – but merely raising the question elicited hate mail, and threatening calls to my home. 

    But it is riskier for us, the people, and for the next round of victims, to let the memory of executed children in Newtown slip from our attention, or become yet one more casualty of powerful lobbying and political timidity.

    I wonder if we could agree to a modest proposal:  let’s call it the Sandy Hook rule.  If a movie or TV show displays the killing of 26 or more people, the show is banned.  Different from banning guns, right?  Or, assuming we can’t get that done (as a bevy of Hollywood lawyers would shoot that down swiftly), what if we, the good citizens who shed a tear or two when we watched the news from Newtown, simply turn off the TV when the firing begins, or don’t plunk down $10 to watch a movie we’ve been fully informed well in advance is in fact about mass murder, which we just shed a tear or two about on December 14. 

    I mean, if a film exhibited the shooting of 25, or 17, or 3, maybe that’s really more than we should be able to stomach.  But the shootings in most successful movies number in the dozens – or you just lose count.  Last movie I went to, people near me giggled and actually clapped when a gunman mowed down 15 or 20 people in just one scene.  The glamorization of violence.

     I can get people to nod if I say There’s too much violence on the screen!  But if those of us who were sad last month would (in memory of the Sandy Hook children) turn it off or refuse to purchase movie tickets for films with dozens of gun killings, they wouldn’t show it, or even produce it.  It’s in our power to clean it up.

     And the mentally ill wouldn’t be able to see it either.  There’s a topic for another day:  what are we willing, and even eager to do to help the mentally ill and their families?

     After the Newtown executions, I said in my next sermon that perhaps we can agree on another modest proposal, based on something I’m 100% sure is correct:  Jesus does not like automatic weapons – so let’s not tolerate them any more:  the other Sandy Hook rule, in memory of the children.  I won’t waste our time by venturing an opinion on guns in general.  The droning of the gun lobby is boringly familiar, making me yawn, or grow ill.  The 2nd amendment!  Guns don’t kill, people kill!  We need more guns, not fewer, to defend ourselves!  Let’s arm the teachers!  I interviewed a dozen teachers after this crazed notion got traction last month, and to a person they said they would quit before they would agree to manage a gun every day with children in the room.

     The NRA has said they won’t budge an inch – and they declare this within hours of a brutal massacre.  This strikes many of us as obscene.  We must have rapid fire weapons! or we won’t be Americans! or We won’t vote for you! or We won’t contribute! or We’ll get mad!  Please.  Is this good citizenship?  Must gun rights be all or nothing?  I’ve yet to hear anyone explain how automatic weapons contribute to the good of society.

     The time has come for some baby steps, like my Sandy Hook rule, and the other Sandy Hook rule, before we lose more babies.  Remember the children rule.