Newtown, CT – December 13, 2013
At this time of year, bells are the harbingers of joy, telling us to pay attention to the upcoming Good News – Tomorrow, in Newtown, they will ring for a very different reason. At 9:20 am, the Bells of Consolation, part of the Bells of Remembrance project, will ring for the slain school children, their teachers, and their principal. They will also ring for the killer's mother, and even for the killer. Mostly, they ring for the survivors, trying to console the inconsolable. And across the country, in schools, churches, synagogues and mosques, a moment of silence will likely be kept – a private moment of prayer, of reflection, of sadness. For many, that morning, much like the morning of September 11th, shocks the human spirit. These willful acts of destruction and murder remind us that evil lurks ever near, that children in schools aren't safe, that mothers and fathers working in a high rise can vanish in an instant. We've looked for answers these past 52 weeks and haven't found many, and perhaps never will. There are, however, many uneasy questions that this community (and others) has to address head on, questions that disturb the tranquility of the status quo. Should civilians have access to military-grade weapons? Should schools screen children for serious behavioral and psychological afflictions? Can we prevent this shocking loss of human life or simply accept it as inevitable? Can we ever defeat evil?
The politicians have beaten their breasts, made proclamations, and failed to act. It's hard to remember another time in recent history when the impotence of federal legislators has been in such abject display. Some states, including Connecticut, have refused to buckle under the pressure of those who pretend that fully automatic weapons of mass destruction are simple hunting rifles, and its residents are safer today. But the important questions remain unanswered. Edmund Burke famously said that for evil to prevail all that need happen is for good people sit idly by. The quiet whispers in their heads reason that it's not their job to fight, that after all they're not doing anything bad. The voice of reason tells them that someone else is to blame, that a mother should have been more assertive, a father more present, a neighbor kinder. And that voice is right, but it misses the point. We are our brother's and sister's keeper. If we sit idly by expecting others to do the fighting, then evil will surely prevail. The forces of the status quo provide us with comfort and reassurance, and too many fall prey to those false promises. At 9:20 the bells will ring, and with every strike to the hollow metal, we must recall the strike of another metal crushing an innocent life. With every soulful call of every bell, we must each hear the call of our own soul. The Bells of Consolation will fall silent like the voices of the children lost and must be replaced by a chorus of voices that will never fall silent as long as evil lurks. Despair can and must be turned into hope. Defeat can and must be turned into victory. In our hearts, we know the answers to the disturbing questions, and as the bells toll we must resolve to never again sit idly by. For that is the announcement of the Good News.