After the Newtown tragedy, Connecticut’s Gov. Dan Malloy said, “Evil visited this community today.” But Adam Lanza was not evil. He was insane. Beyond this obvious assertion, I have nothing special or unique to add. But two women do. One is my daughter, Julia Quinn, a wise and caring individual. The other is Liza Long, a Boise-based writer and the mother of a mentally ill teen.
I grew up in Connecticut, very close to Newtown, and I have friends whose (now grown) children attended Sandy Hook Elementary School. I haven’t posted anything about the shooting until now because I was simply too shattered all weekend. It doesn’t make it worse that it happened near my childhood home; this is a tragedy for all Americans. But having walked through those streets, having attended a Christmas party around the corner from where Adam Lanza would eventually live… the sorrow is pulled just a little closer to my heart.
I have never posted anything political while in my author persona; I do not think politics belong in my books or in this forum. But I don’t think that the safety of our children should be a political issue. We as Americans must do more to address access to to mental health care and gun safety and legislation. I know that many will disagree with me, but I plan to write to my congressman and senators to voice my support for a ban on assault weapons.
What I hope for America is that those who share my conviction and those who don’t are able to talk to one another in a reasonable manner. We all want a safer, kinder society, and this begins with civil discourse.
Here is the lead-in to and beginning of Ms. Long’s essay:
Friday’s horrific national tragedy—the murder of 20 children and six adults at Sandy Hook Elementary School in Newtown, Connecticut—has ignited a new discussion on violence in America. In kitchens and coffee shops across the country, we tearfully debate the many faces of violence in America: gun culture, media violence, lack of mental health services, overt and covert wars abroad, religion, politics and the way we raise our children. Liza Long, a writer based in Boise, says it’s easy to talk about guns. But it’s time to talk about mental illness.
Three days before 20 year-old Adam Lanza killed his mother, then opened fire on a classroom full of Connecticut kindergartners, my 13-year old son Michael (name changed) missed his bus because he was wearing the wrong color pants.
“I can wear these pants,” he said, his tone increasingly belligerent, the black-hole pupils of his eyes swallowing the blue irises.
“They are navy blue,” I told him. “Your school’s dress code says black or khaki pants only.”
“They told me I could wear these,” he insisted. “You’re a stupid bitch. I can wear whatever pants I want to. This is America. I have rights!”
“You can’t wear whatever pants you want to,” I said, my tone affable, reasonable. “And you definitely cannot call me a stupid bitch. You’re grounded from electronics for the rest of the day. Now get in the car, and I will take you to school.”
I live with a son who is mentally ill. I love my son. But he terrifies me.
Read the rest of Ms. Long’s powerful essay here.