Thoughts on Our National Grief in the Wake of Newtown

by Erika Kreeger, ’15

My family and I were watching the 49ers’ football game last week when, like all major networks, the coverage switched to the President’s address to roughly 1,000 members of the Newtown, Connecticut, community who lost loved ones in the recent tragedy at Sandy Hook Elementary. I was playing Minesweeper on our family desktop in the other room, not paying too much attention (I’ll be honest, I was trying to avoid the football), and I did not even register the program swap until about half way through the President’s talk.

What was clear from the speech is how personally sorry the President felt for the loss of those 20 young pupils and their 6 administrators. I could hear my mom tearing up on the living room couch. My Facebook feed was filling up with heartfelt comments and remarks on the President’s speech; more generally, since the incident, my feed has been mobbed by touching memes, statuses and posts from people extending condolences to fellow citizens, to people sharing the inspiring stories of how the students and staff reacted to Adam Lanza’s rampage. The story that really got me the most was that of Victoria Soto who sacrificed her life for the lives of her students. Listening to Obama, thinking about the events and stories of the last week, I couldn’t help but shed a tear.

But I can’t help but shed many more tears for the innumerable family, friends and loved ones of innocent people that my own government has killed, whether through drone strikes or in the wars in Iraq or Afghanistan, that you, me and the rest of my compatriots have been told is necessary for our protection, our safety and our security. And on top of losing a loved one, they have to suffer the indignity of knowing that the government who ordered their loved one’s death, whether intentionally or accidentally, and the people that voted for that government (myself included) and funded their government’s actions through their tax dollars rarely, if ever, register their death as anything more than weekly or monthly numeric static. They have to suffer knowing that we think their loved ones death is in some way justified by an entire people and government, and therefore we do not have to feel sad or sorry for ripping a gigantic hole in their home communities.

Maybe their loved ones’ deaths were ‘justifiable’ (although with 2% of drone targets being top militant leaders, I have serious doubts that any of their deaths can be justified given the collateral damage they have been shown to cause). The victims’ innocence is inconsequential. As a nation, we are supporting a government that kills hundreds of thousands of people all over the world, in particular in the Middle East, a region that both our people and government have heavily demonized, and we don’t even have enough respect for their lives and their loved ones to take a moment to feel even a bit of remorse of sorrow for their loss.

So the next time you, me or anyone who is a citizen feels sorrow for the loss of those 26 beautiful people, or anger at Adam Lanza for tearing them from their communities, I hope that we can feel remorse for causing the pain and anger that many parts of the Middle East feel at us for methodically and systematically killing their brothers, sisters, husbands, wives, sons, daughters, loved ones and community members. I can’t help but imagine that it does not feel all that much better than the way you and I are feeling right now.

Erika is a sophomore who grew up in the lone liberal family on a military base, giving her both an appreciation for the justifications of war, and the terrible consequences war can have on those who fight on both sides.  

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4 thoughts on “Thoughts on Our National Grief in the Wake of Newtown

  1. Erika, thank you for this critical article. We must peer into the mirror in our living rooms to see reflections of the world beyond. Civilian violence is often seen as “gratuitous”, “needless”, “irrational”, while violence of war as “necessary”, “justified”, or “protective”. Until we realize that ALL violence stems from mental illness, economic imbalances, ignorance, and power-hunger, we will remain frozen in this false dichotomy. The husband hitting his wife is truly no different than a soldier killing a woman abroad.

  2. Holly says:

    Thank you for this, Erika. Take a look at this post by Julian Abagond, who has attempted to compile a list of children who have died in droke strikes:

  3. CM says:

    Thank you for putting words to many of the thoughts I have been having, as well.

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