Sandy Hook: An essay, and some links that should be shared.

I’ve been trying to think of something to write here since the horrific violence that exploded in Newtown, a community only 15 minutes away from mine, on Friday. I’ve tried to think of something meaningful to add to the conversations about the tragedy that took the lives of 20 children, their educators, a mother and a violently troubled youth, but almost everything I’ve wanted to write has just seemed like an addition to the online noise that has surrounded the shootings.

Should I write about my friends who live in Newtown? I know many Newtowners; they are my fellow alums and my former teachers. They are my former students. They are my friends. Their children have lost their own friends now, and the pain of those parents as they cope with the grief of their  children is palpable.

Should I write about the media? I’ve been an education reporter, which often means covering tragedies involving the young.  If I were still in my old job, I would have been on the ground in Newtown, as some of my former co-workers are. It’s a thankless, horrible job they are doing, because as much as we thirst for information about a horror when we are nowhere near it, we resent the intrusion of the press when they are in our own backyards to supply the information demanded by the rest of the country. Don’t think the reporters aren’t affected by metabolizing and processing all the awful details so that the public can read them. My worst days were spent writing about the deaths of children, and I never covered anything as terrible as this.

Should I write about all the parents who have been answering tough questions all weekend? Now must be a hard time to be a parent. I admit that it’s selfish of me to have been grateful since Friday that I have no children, and that I’ve been spared the pain of that anxiety.

Should I write about politics? About mental health? About gun control? Surely enough noise is being made about all of that without me adding my own uninformed and unorganized opinions to the fray.

All I can do is acknowledge the tragedy and my reaction to it, and pass on to some of the things I’ve seen and read that matter:

First, a fund to donate to. I have this (indirectly) from a school administrator who recommends this as a legitimate donation site. And of course it is the United Way: Sandy Hook School Support Fund
UPDATE: Here is another fund, set up by the Sandy Hook Community members. This was shared with me by a Facebook friend who vouches for its legitimacy.
UPDATE: If you wish to make a donation in memory of a victim, the Newtown Patch today posted a list of the charities chosen by some of the victims’ families.

If you haven’t read “I am Adam Lanza’s Mother” yet, you should. It’s a powerful and well-written essay about the state of mental health care in our country, and about the effect of a mentally ill child on a caregiver.

As, a follow-up, it’s helpful to read “I am Adam Lanza’s Psychiatrist.”

I haven’t organized my thoughts on gun control completely but Talking Points Memo offered a thought-provoking post on the subject a few days ago.

So that’s it, for now. Go. Live life. Grieve. Respect the grief of others. Acknowledge the validity of other people’s pain and work, and don’t take out the frustration we all feel on people who are just as stricken you are. That’s all I’ve got.


Last night, we watched the worst movie I’ve seen in a while: Brazil.

I had been excited about this film. I like Terry Gilliam,  and I’m a fan of Metropolis and 1984 and Dr. Strangelove. Netflix put all those things together and decided I would love Brazil. But the strongest recommendation came to me a decade ago from a friend, who told me that Brazil was his favorite movie, and that I would love it and absolutely had to see it.

So my husband and I, tired from a long and exciting weekend of training and adjusting to life with our new dog, decided to take some time for ourselves and watch this fabulous movie. I grabbed some ice cream, he grabbed some wine and we sat down with the cat and popped in the DVD.

I haven’t hated a movie this much in a long time.

The plot was predictable, the characters were two-dimensional, the dream sequences went on and on and the humor wasn’t funny. I was furious. But my fury wasn’t so much directed at the things I didn’t like about the film. I was angry that I’d made us sit through the whole thing. We started hating the Brazil halfway into the film, but I didn’t take it out of the DVD player. Instead, I kept waiting for it to get good. It got worse. Much worse. And by the end of the film, I realized I had wasted our evening on a movie we both hated. And that made me angry.

I’ve always had a sort of finish-everything-on-your-plate approach to consuming media. If I start a book, I feel the need to finish it, even if I hate it and I’m supposedly reading it for pleasure. Same thing with movies. But I think I’m done. If I start reading or watching something that I don’t like, I don’t think I should guilt myself into finishing it. This is what Cordelia of Cordelia Calls It Quits would call a “quit.” In fact, this decision not to force myself to watch or read something I’m not enjoying was inspired by one of her own quits.

I’m not saying, by the way, that I’m not going to read and watch things I don’t like. What I am saying is that I ought to be honest about why I’m reading those things. If I’m reading Kafka, am I reading it for pleasure, to expand my horizons, or so I can check off The Metamorphosis on that BBC list of books that my Facebook friends have been passing around? Or am I reading it so that someday, at a cocktail party, I can stand there in my black turtleneck and tweed jacket and drawl, “Oh, that is so Kafka!”

If so, that’s fine. Maybe I’ll even enjoy The Metamorphosis. But I should at least know why I’m reading or watching something.

And I should definitely not screw up our movie nights by forcing us to watch a movie we both hate when we could be watching something with snappy dialogue and well-rounded characters.

See below for a dramatic re-enactment of my viewing of Brazil.

What the movie looked like a few minutes in.

What I looked like a few minutes in.

What the movie looked like near the end.

What I looked like near the end.

I’m done.