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Matt Von Pinnon, Published December 15 2012

Von Pinnon: There’s no explaining rampage to first-grader

I hid The Forum from my first-grader on Saturday.

Coming from the editor, that may seem strange. I’ve never done it before, even when the news was really bleak, and we’ve had a lot of bleak news around here in recent weeks.

I’ve always felt it was important for her to see the world for what it was – the good and the bad.

Most of the time, when she asked questions about things that confused or concerned her, I could come up with a semi-reasonable answer to at least satisfy her curiosity.

Saturday was different.

I knew I couldn’t possibly explain why a man barely old enough to vote would come into an elementary school and shoot at close range 20 little kids and six adults just trying to prepare those children for life.

And it wasn’t just that I couldn’t explain it. I didn’t see any value in her knowing it.

I mean, what would a first-grader gain from knowing this happened?

Would it make her any safer or any more aware?

I didn’t think so.

If anything, it would cause more worry, more concern and more sadness, just like it has done with millions of people across the country.

My wife and I also chose to keep the TV turned off on Saturday, which wasn’t easy for my wife, who is an elementary school teacher and wanted to know all she could because this news hit closer to home for her.

When the kids weren’t near, she wanted to talk about school security, the lockdown drills they routinely practice and whether school visitor measures go far enough.

This Connecticut school had a pretty advanced security system, and it didn’t stop the violence.

Personally, I think all the attention paid to the need for more security measures and devices is overblown.

Yes, we should make our schools, public places and air travel as safe as we can, but I’ll take securing freedom over complete security.

People committed to such acts of terrorism will always find a way.

If it’s not inside a school, it will be at the playground.

If it’s not inside a sports venue, it will be in its parking lot.

If it’s not on the airplane, it will be inside the airport.

We simply cannot secure every place we go and live. It’s not realistic and, frankly, it’s not what America is about.

Instead, we should focus on trying to treat the mental illnesses of those who act out in these perverted ways. We should also do everything in our power to make everyone feel they are important and belong.

While it’s human nature to try to make sense out of something so senseless, we should not spend too much time and energy trying to attach motives to such acts.

People who hurt other people with the misguided hope of becoming immortal in some sick way should be ignored, not “explained.”

I say all this as somebody whose career is staked on the premise that people are better off with more information than less.

But those people on this day don’t include my first-grader.

She’ll learn soon enough that there are rotten people who do rotten things despite the overriding truth that there are many, many more good people who are peaceful and law-abiding.

She’ll learn soon enough that life brings some truly difficult days and poses some unanswerable questions.

But not today. Not just yet.


Von Pinnon is editor of The Forum. Reach him at (701) 241-5579.