Twenty children and six adults are dead. In Nigeria, people put their lives at risk going to church on Sundays. But in New England? The thought that going to school could be a final act is hard for us to comprehend. The seeming senselessness of what happened in Connecticut on Friday is not something we easily process. As the media and political class rush to legislative answers, we ask what is a healthy response to what has happened.
Like most people, I’ve been thinking and thinking about the Sandy Hook massacre. I’ve even pored over a map of the school and its killing sites — and studied a timeline of the incident, which appears to have unfolded over about 20 minutes. I have three observations:
There was not a single adult male on the school premises when the shooting occurred. In this school of 450 students, a sizeable number of whom were undoubtedly 11- and 12-year-old boys (it was a K–6 school), all the personnel — the teachers, the principal, the assistant principal, the school psychologist, the “reading specialist” — were female. There didn’t even seem to be a male janitor to heave his bucket at Adam Lanza’s knees. Women and small children are sitting ducks for mass-murderers. The principal, Dawn Hochsprung, seemed to have performed bravely. According to reports, she activated the school’s public-address system and also lunged at Lanza, before he shot her to death. Some of the teachers managed to save all or some of their charges by rushing them into closets or bathrooms. But in general, a feminized setting is a setting in which helpless passivity is the norm. Male aggression can be a good thing, as in protecting the weak — but it has been forced out of the culture of elementary schools and the education schools that train their personnel. Think of what Sandy Hook might have been like if a couple of male teachers who had played high-school football, or even some of the huskier 12-year-old boys, had converged on Lanza.
People, even unarmed people, need to fight back against criminals — because usually, no one else will. It took the police 20 minutes to arrive at Sandy Hook. By the time they got there, it was over. Cops and everybody else encourage civilians not to try to defend themselves when they are criminally assaulted. This is stupid advice. There are things you can do. Run is one of them, because most shooters can’t hit a moving target. The other, if you are in a confined space, is throw things at the killer, or try a tackle. Remember United Flight 93 on 9/11. It was a “flight of heroes” because a bunch of guys on that plane did what they could with what they had. They probably prevented the destruction of the White House or the Capitol.
Parents of sick children need to be realistic about them. I know at least two sets of fine and devoted parents who have had the misfortune to raise sons who were troubled for genetic reasons beyond anyone’s control. Either of those boys could have been an Adam Lanza. You simply can’t give a non-working, non-school-enrolled 20-year-old man free range of your home, much less your cache of weapons. You have to set boundaries. You have to say, “You can’t live here anymore — you’re an adult, and it’s time for you to be a man. We’ll give you all the support you need, but we won’t be enablers.” Unfortunately, the idea of being an “adult” and a “man” once one has reached physical maturity seems to have faded out of our coddling culture.
— Charlotte Allen is author of The Human Christ.