This is the world we live in.

On Dec. 14, in Newtown, Connecticut, 20-year-old Adam Lanza shot and killed his mother at home, then drove to Sandy Hook Elementary School and took 26 other lives, 20 of them belonging to students in two classrooms, aged five or six.

In another world, this wouldn’t happen. In another dimension, it didn’t happen. Somewhere on a plane we can’t understand or locate, there’s a universe where those kids are alive, Adam Lanza is alive, his mother is alive, the principal, teachers, everyone is alive. No lives are shattered and no vigils are held and no cries are going up for prayer in schools or gun control or arming administrators with M4 rifles.

That’s not our world, not our universe. Our universe is what we’ve made of it, and as a people, we’ve made it into this.


The Children

You hear all the time that kids are different. It’s a mantra for our culture—such as it is—to “think of the children.” Politicians talk about leaving a better world for our children, and their children, as a way of reaching into a perpetuity that, if we’re lucky, a few of our genes will be around to see after we’re long gone.

Even the laws are different when it comes to kids. Abuse a child physically, sexually or mentally and the punishment is more severe. From the time we’re old enough to not be children anymore, we’re taught that children are fragile, need to be protected. Children inspire a fanaticism in some that borders on the religious, and in some cases, there’s no border at all.

So what does it mean to kill children? You’ve just shot your mother. You load up a few guns into your car, drive to a grade school, blast your way in and proceed to snuff out life after life while the P.A. broadcasts every shot like a morning announcement that it’s pizza day for lunch. In the end, you shoot yourself too.

The world we live in.

What else can you be but everything we as a people should revile? From matricide to killing children and teachers to suicide—what was Adam Lanza on his last day if not the antithesis and destruction of all that should be most dear? How are we supposed to not wonder what would drive a person to such things?


The Response

Is sickening.

Names of dead children published. Lanza’s life sensationalized, fetishized, with a revulsion and curiosity near sexual. The president cries. The media swarms, pictures, interviews with devastated parents, asking students outside Sandy Hook what the gunshots sounded like to hear their responses and play them back like an episode of Kids Say The Darndest Things.

But we are pulled in even as we draw back, swept up by the it-couldn’t-happen-to-me impulse while we gawk and move immediately into the already hackneyed gun control debate. Hours have not yet passed, the shock is still visceral, and yet there we are, talking about the same things we talk about every time. The president says things have to change.

He’s said “change” a lot in his time. If you did a word cloud of his presidency, “change” would show up in pretty big letters. Right next to “god.”


What Happens

This is the world we live in.

All the generations of rhetoric about the value of life, the extra value of innocent life, will prove false. It will have been the biggest joke of all. Because nothing will change.

You have to understand this.

The issue is not gun control. Adam Lanza—in keeping with the long tradition of mass killings in America—obtained his weapons legally. A ban on assault rifles does not stop this. A change in tone in national dialogue does not stop this. Restrictions on permits, better mental health programs, bulletproof glass, armed security guards, an M4 in the principal’s closet, prayer in schools. None of them are a solution.

They are the white noise keeping the solution away.

We’re the problem.

Kids don’t matter anymore than anyone else matters, and no one matters. Least of all when there’s money to be made. Lanza won’t be the last mass killer, and it won’t be long before someone else kills children. Whatever you think is the most horrifying thing—that’s what will happen. Because that’s what we are. As a species, we’re all Adam Lanza. That’s why we can’t stop watching.

And this world is what we’ve made it.


The Universe

Somewhere—maybe that’s not even the right word for it—there’s a universe where you’ve never heard of Adam Lanza, of Newtown, of these dead kids. None of them exist. None of us exist, because 100 million years ago, the right fish got eaten by the right other fish and none of its descendants ever crawled on the ground and became the mammals we like to pretend aren’t still eating each other every single minute of every single day.

That universe has no guns, no people to make or hold them. It’s quiet. Maybe it’s nothing at all. That universe has to be out there too. Somewhere, or something, sometime. In some space.

But that’s not for us. We get told about the value of human life while we eat and drink poison. While we bomb children in other countries because where they live happened to be “the wrong place at the wrong time.” There is no value to human life. If there was, if children mattered more, if anything mattered at all, at any time, ever, in any place, something would become different.

We’d learn and grow into something that isn’t this, reaching a new understanding from tragedy. That won’t happen, because this is who we are, and this is what we do to each other. This is the high regard we hold for life. These moments are this universe at its most honest.

It’s not even that if we reacted differently, that would make it better somehow. There’s no cure until we turn into something else, and no policy change, law or product can make that happen.

This is the world we live in.

JJ Koczan

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