Newtown, An Anniversary

December 14, 2014
Bob Baskin President, The Peace Alliance

Anniversaries are generally happy and celebratory occasions. This one isn’t. Today, December 14, marks the second anniversary of the terrible tragedy that took place in Newtown, Connecticut. On that awful day, a deranged man who had earlier killed his own mother murdered 20 innocent young kids and six of their teachers.

I awoke the next morning and felt compelled to write about what had happened. I wrote that I had been greatly affected personally by what had occurred. I spoke of having been born and raised in Connecticut and being quite familiar with the Newtown area. I had also worked as a public school teacher in Connecticut right after graduation from college. Additionally, I revealed something I had rarely discussed with anyone – the fact that 17 years earlier, my daughter had been brutally murdered in a case that remains unsolved. She left behind two small children, a five-year old son and a three-year old daughter.

I remember struggling to understand how these things happen, to my daughter, in Newtown the day before, and really in communities all around the country.

In the article, I called for a series of what seemed to me to be sensible measures. Included was a ban on assault weapons and high capacity ammunition clips. But, The Peace Alliance, where I work, strives to educate and advocate for positive prevention and restorative intervention alternatives to more punitive, militaristic, and incarcerating policies far too prevalent in our society and around the world,

Therefore, I called for providing much greater sums and support for mental health and social service programs in our communities. Further, we believe we should support proven evidence-based conflict resolution, nonviolent communication, and restorative practice programs in our communities and particularly with our children in our schools.

As recent events in Ferguson, New York City, and Cleveland have shown us, we have been woefully slow in building improved police-community relations through better training, reconciliation measures, and frank dialogue. So much more can be and must be done.

Right after Newtown happened, Vice President Biden was charged with convening a Taskforce on Gun Violence. On the eve of the release of the Taskforce’s Report, a press conference was held. At that point, it seemed fairly obvious that pressure from the National Rifle Association had convinced too many Members to not accept the Taskforce’s recommendations. A reporter asked the Vice President why the Taskforce was moving ahead anyway. Vice President Biden looked sternly at the reporter and responded, “Just because you can’t do everything, doesn’t mean you can’t do anything, and that’s exactly what we’re going to try and do.”

I think that’s a lesson for all of us to consider. We know that working to build peace and mitigate conflict, violence, and war is a substantially up hill battle. Nevertheless, just because we can’t do everything and achieve these goals quickly, doesn’t mean we can’t do anything. This is my personal commitment, the commitment of The Peace Alliance, and the commitment of our vast grassroots community. We hope it will be yours as well.

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