Saturday, December 22, 2012


We weren’t initially intending to write about the spirit of the Christmas season now upon us, rather follow up on the tragedy at the Sandy Hook Elementary School in Newtown, Connecticut. In doing so, however, we found the spirit of Christmas all around us.   

First, as predicted, the gun debate has, thankfully, once again been refueled by the senseless tragedy in Connecticut. We wonder if a saner and more mature nation would have taken action without this heartbreak. A much more resolute citizenry is now at the fore with it appearing a consensus that some substantive action will follow. We all need to make sure that happens and those efforts aren’t hijacked by special interest groups. At the very least limiting the availability of military style weapons and embracing a more responsible approach to mental health issues needs to happen.

The NRA has proposed the use of armed guards in all our schools though some feel this may turn our society into one big armed camp which may even invite confrontation. We remember 2009 when at Fort Hood (a place with a lot of guns), an Army psychiatrist murdered twelve people and injured 31 others.  Hmmmmmmm… Is it the intent of the NRA to put armed guards in all public places? How about all places of prayer – Sikh temples and Muslim mosques?

We wonder now if we will ever find the motivation – that kernel of hate and insanity – that prompted Lanza to go on his lunatic rampage.  The Connecticut State Police have insinuated that while they have found significant evidence they also revealed that Adam Lanza destroyed the hard drive on his computer.  With no known notes, manifesto or declaration it certainly appears now that Lanza intended his rampage to be an undecipherable action – a riddle that would forever fester and confound.

Newtown, Connecticut continues to memorialize and bury their dead and whatever the season, capturing the attention and hearts of caring and compassionate people all around a grieving world. We especially noted the local 26 random Acts of Kindness (AOK) inspired by NBC's Ann Curry and carried out by the Irving, Texas Convention and Visitors Bureau (CVB) in the memory of the Sandy Hook Elementary School students and staff.  For example, a Lady from Dallas got her cat food paid for at a PETCO store in honor of 6-year-old animal lover Catherine Hubbard.  The Irving CVB's 26th act of kindness was to send a special delivery to Curry, thanking her for inspiring them. That act will honor the memory of 27-year-old teacher Vicki Soto who was an inspiration to all of her students.  We say, well done… but perhaps there should be 27 AOK and maybe we should do this 24/7, 365 days a year?

One good Friend expressed her grief over the senseless Connecticut killings by quoting American poet Henry Wadsworth Longfellow’s 1863 poem "Christmas Bells" that chronicles Longfellow’s despair upon being notified that his eldest son had been severely wounded at the Battle of New Hope Church in the American Civil War.  Longfellow’s depression had also been fueled and rekindled by the loss of his wife who died in an accidental fire. His poem has morphed into the popular Christmas hymn, I Heard the Bells on Christmas Day.

While Longfellow’s first few stanzas relate the Christmas message of the power of love and peace on earth he soon turns to cynicism and despair, "hate is strong and mocks the song of peace on earth, good will to men." 

“I heard the bells on Christmas Day.
Their old familiar carols play
And loud and sweet the words repeat
Of peace on earth, good will to men.

I thought how as the day had come
The belfries of a Christendom
Had rolled along the unbroken song
Of peace on earth, good will to men.

Then in despair I bowed my head
“There is no peace on earth,” I said
"For hate is strong and it mocks the song
Of peace on earth, good will to men."

Our Friend ended her message prematurely and failed to offer Longfellow’s final stanza which we reminded her of and offered, thusly.  

“Then pealed the bells more loud and deep,
God is not dead nor does He sleep.
The wrong shall fail, the right prevail
With peace on earth, good will to men.”

So Longfellow survived like us to realize and recognize the persistence of the spirit of Man in the strength of those Christmas Bells – the victory of Man, where God and Right will always and ultimately prevail. So, when you hear I Heard the Bells on Christmas Day, pay attention to the lyrics and remember.

And that’s our message this week and forever.  Do not despair, but with a more resolute demeanor do everything you can to insure that this horror will never happen again.  Just listen to those Christmas Bells. Mourn our loss and remember those who passed but also embrace what one of the world’s greatest social thinkers, John Ruskin, offered in 1866, "What we think, or what we know, or what we believe is, in the end, of little consequence. The only consequence is what we do."  So, it’s time to walk the walk- a fitting memorial along with some random Acts of Kindness. 

Merry Christmas, Happy Holidays and Peace and Love to Newtown.


Ned Buxton

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