Francisco de Goya y Lucientes, The Bogeyman Is Coming (Los Caprichos, no. 3), 1799

Francisco de Goya y Lucientes, The Bogeyman Is Coming (Los Caprichos, no. 3), 1799

In the midst of the tragic and horrific murders that occurred in Newtown, I am overwhelmed by two very distinct feelings.

The first, and thankfully the more powerful, is a feeling of awe at the overflowing human courage, kindness and decency that was clearly present in those terrible and unimaginable moments during the shooting.  I am also in awe at the outpouring those same qualities in the aftermath of this tragedy. There is nothing any of us can do that will heal the wound or make right the terrible wrong done to Newtown, its families, and its children.  But we can let them know that our tears fall and our hearts break with theirs – and they are not alone in their grief.

The other feeling I am overwhelmed with is one of disgust.  I am absolutely disgusted at the political opportunism displayed by individuals and groups from practically every dark corner of the ideological spectrum.  The formula is really quite simple:  Take whatever ideologically-based view the opportunist held before the shooting and then use the tragedy as an accelerant to justify government imposed policies that further that ideological view.

Gun control and gun-ownership advocates were the first raft of these to land with calls to remove the second amendment on one hand versus efforts to turn teachers into pistol-toting guards on the other.  While both over-reactions, to the credit of these arguments there is at least some logical connection to issues of school safety and how they might be addressed.

In other cases, the opportunism just goes off the deep end.

I’ve read from anti-public school advocates that the shooting is further proof of the failure of the American education system and its educators.  The clear answer, for them, is a further deconstruction and dismantling of our system of public schools.  I’ve also seen anti-testing and accountability advocates try and make the case that assessments and efforts at improving educator effectiveness are culpable.  Somehow, bubble sheets and evaluations led this murderer into Sandy Hook Elementary.   And then there are the arguments that a vengeful God wrought this destruction on six and seven year-olds and their teachers because of some lack of absolutist moral purity in our society. Where do we even begin with that one?

The only positive outcome of the Newtown tragedy from a public policy standpoint would be for schools to be safer places in the future.  Our only hope of making our schools safer is through a reasoned and rational discourse followed by decisions that are in the best interests of our school children and the education professionals who serve them.

In the days to come, beware the opportunists and their bogeymen.