Moving forward after Newtown

I began to write this column before the shootings in Newtown. My attempts at humor about the new year dissolved as I listened to the names of the beautiful children and brave adults read on news shows, listed in the paper, and remembered on Facebook. As I readied for my own holidays — having Hannah come home, and buying more food than we should eat — I kept going back to each of those families. Their holidays will never be the same. Never.

Now, we’re awash with the “what should we do to stop this” debate. I’m appalled at the NRA’s easy and self-serving solution to just add more armed people to the world. Really? More people with guns around kids will solve this? Almost as maddening as the NRA’s statement was the immediate uptick on assault weapon purchases. Did those go under the Christmas tree?

What we need to do will be difficult and costly. Not everyone will agree to all the steps. They’ll say we don’t have enough money for some efforts. We’ll be infringing on some people’s perceived rights. It’s all too complicated.

My reaction is for everyone to get over how costly and complicated it will all be. What we need to do is the right thing, which often falls into the knotty and pricey categories.  Solutions to serious issues lead to disagreements, but we can’t shy away from the debate. If we learned anything this fall from the ballot amendments, it’s that discussions brought people together. We learned from one another. Straight talk, not screaming and ranting, allowed concerns to be addressed in a direct manner.

Guns. I don’t believe that assault weapons and ammunition cartridges that can kill scores of people in minutes are necessary for any individual to own anywhere in this country. Period. I grew up in a house with guns hanging on the walls next to the deer head and the mounted ducks the guns had killed. Hunters don’t use assault weapons to bring home venison in the fall.

Mental health. We are woefully underfunded, pitifully lacking in facilities, and stuck in a frame that stigmatizes those struggling with issues of mental health. I know of families in our community who have desperately sought out medical facilities for young people in pain — mental health pain — and found every option serving adolescents to be at capacity. We’re a state with more hospitals, doctors, care providers, and systems than most places in the nation, yet we can’t adequately serve our population when it comes to mental health issues.

OK, we have guns and mental health issues to cover, but we also have our fascination with violence in video games, movies, TV, and other media. It’s an addicting way to have fun, whether you’re alone in a room playing a video game or at the movies watching thousands of people die. It’s painless to you, but it addles the brain into thinking it is painless, period.

Remember this is complicated. It will take money. It will not be easy.

I want Paul Wellstone back to take this on. Will anyone else be able to stand the heat, bear the consequences, and know it won’t come easy to solve? We’ll see.

What can I say about the families in Newton who lost children? Grief is forever.  Let’s keep them in our thoughts as we do the hard work ahead. Each child deserves it.

Welcome Jerde lives in Lynnhurst with her husband/editor, Dan Berg, and her daughter, Hannah, when she isn’t at college. When not writing, Welcome works at Broders’, organizes monthly service projects through Service Works, and leads trips to Tanzania to work in a small village.