I, like many others, have spent the last twelve hours trying to figure out how to wrap my mind around what happened yesterday at Sandy Hook Elementary School in Newtown, Connecticut. A 20 year old man, almost certainly mentally ill, took the lives of 26 people, including his mother (one of the teachers at the school), the principal, the school psychologist, and twenty children between the ages of 5 and 10. A tragedy of this magnitude is hard to comprehend; when I watched some of the video clips coming in from Newtown, when I listened to an emotional President Obama's voice cracking as he delivered his response to the nation, I could do nothing but sit there and cry helplessly myself.
Each of us deals with tragedy in our own way. My (many) Christian friends on Facebook have posted comments that they are comforted by the thought that Jesus has gathered these children in. My (also many) secular/non-religious friends have offered their thoughts and condolences to the bereaved family members of those innocent victims. Members of both groups have voiced their renewed commitment to creating a loving, compassionate world, a world in which things like this don't happen ever again. And at times like this, we are forced to revisit and question our laws regarding access to mental health care and gun control, which is right and proper. We respond by comforting the grieving, giving solace to our own shock, and considering how to prevent such horrors in the future.
Well, at least most of us do. Some of us respond by using the deaths of 26 innocent people to score political points. Consider former Arkansas governor Mike Huckabee's response: "We ask why there is violence in our schools, but we have systematically
removed God from our schools," Huckabee said in an interview on Fox News yesterday. "Should we be
so surprised that schools would become a place of carnage?"
I watched the clip of Huckabee's interview with my mouth hanging open a little. And at first, I thought, "Why bother writing about this? Huckabee is a sanctimonious twit. You already knew that." But the more I thought about it, the more I realized I couldn't just keep silent.
Do you really believe that, Mr. Huckabee? Your god is that petty, that heartless, that bloodthirsty? Your concept of the Lord of Lords is that he is sitting there on his throne in heaven, and he's thinking, "I'm just fed up with America's commitment to the separation of church and state. Ever since they eliminated prayer in schools, I've been getting more and more pissed off. Hey, I know! I'll send a crazed gunman to shoot a bunch of kids! Yeah, that's the ticket!"?
And I realized: no, of course he doesn't think that. He's a shill. He is shamelessly using the grief and outrage of others to gain political capital. He's not alone; every time something like this happens, you hear others of his cloth -- people like Ann Coulter, Glenn Beck, and Rush Limbaugh -- do precisely the same thing. They don't even stop for a second to say, "Let's take a break from the politically-motivated finger-pointing. Let's use this horror to incite us to do good. Hug your kids, help the people around you, do what you can to make your own community a safe place. There will be other times to push politics; now is a time to come together, put aside our differences, and remember our common commitment to a better world." No. Before the gunshots have even stopped, they've already started manipulating the situation to further their own ends.
If you think this sort of thing is unique to Huckabee, who had already established his reputation as a heartless asshole by responding the same way to the theater shooting in Aurora, Colorado earlier this year, think again. Take a look at this video if you can stand to, in which American Family Association spokesperson Bryan Fischer states that god could have stopped the shooter, but didn't because "god is not going to go where he's not wanted." If kids were allowed to pray every day in schools, Fischer claims, the whole thing never would have happened. I'm sickened by someone who would stoop this low, who would callously think, "Wow, now people will really see that I was right about religion in public schools!" and give a speech like this on the same damned day that the murders occurred.
The word "reprehensible" doesn't even begin to cover this sort of behavior. I can only hope that the people who hear these men talking, religious and non-religious alike, will be repulsed by the cold, calculated politicization of what should be a cause for national mourning. And I hope that enough of them -- and especially of the Christians to whom Huckabee and Fischer are attempting to pander -- will tell them to sit down and shut the hell up, and that they will get the message that anyone with an ounce of compassion would react to their shilling with nausea.