published Sunday, December 16th, 2012

Cook: The opposite of violence is kindergarten

My own.

That's the first place my mind went. To thoughts of my own kids and their elementary school.

With the finger-painted pictures -- strung up with clothespins in the hallway -- of thumbprint snowmen and reindeer. The fastest slide at recess. Kids at lunchtime, swinging their little legs off the cafeteria stools, all of them eating their dessert first.

The way they step down off the yellow bus, backpacks like camel humps. Using their fingers to count in math class.

One. Two. Three ... enough.


How does one count the dead bodies of schoolchildren without feeling a rage and anger that has no end? How does one count the bullets fired into a Connecticut elementary school Friday morning without wanting to shove them all back into the heart of the man who shot them?

Nothing in the world is more obscene than to walk into an elementary school with loaded handguns and begin firing. This is the Mayan apocalypse made small, when south becomes north and west becomes east and nothing makes sense in this mad, mad world.

While gun violence is, to paraphrase H. Rap Brown, as common as cherry pie, it has trickled down to areas that are culturally sacred and commonplace. Areas that symbolize, well, America. The best of us.

Churches. Temples. Malls. Universities. Movie theaters. And now kindergartens.

There is no good place left untouched.

It's like being kicked out of the Garden of Eden, a raping of innocence. Gun violence, dropped like an atom bomb, into the world of fat stubby pencils, Curious George and chocolate milk that runs out your nose when you laugh hard enough.

I want to call every elementary school teacher in this country and say thank you. Please keep doing what you are doing. Because the opposite of a gunman is a teacher, and the opposite of violence is kindergarten.

Remember to share.

Be respectful.

Listen to others.

"I pledge to be kind to my friends and family,'' my kids and their classmates stand and pledge each morning.

"To be honest. Caring. And fair.''

When my children ask about the shootings, what will I tell them? What will you tell yours?

(My hatred for guns has never been greater. They are like poison to me. If the NRA took a vow of mourning and silence for 100 years it still would not be long enough.)

One summer night a few years ago, I was downtown with my young daughter, waiting to cross the street. We were headed to the carousel. Or Riverbend, maybe.

And I was angry about something. A bad dinner. A parking ticket. Lost car keys. Who knows.

I stood on that street corner, brooding, staring at the cracks in the sidewalk, thinking all those negative thoughts. Looking ... down.

My daughter, curled like a comma into her stroller, was by my side. And she was looking up.

"Dad,'' she said. "Look. Look at the birds.''

(Her little lisp made "birds" come out like "buwds.'')

And I looked up. There in the sky, which was painted pink and red by the setting sun, were hundreds of birds. Swooping. Circling.

It was utterly beautiful.

And it woke me up, out of my anger.

In this life of ours, we must learn to hold the evil and beauty together. Things -- awful, despicable things -- will send us brooding and mourning and despairing, casting our eyes down at the sidewalk cracks of life.

But we must also remember to look up. At the beautiful buwds. Because life is more than elementary school shootings. Life is beauty and hope and love and sweetness and daughters in strollers and fast slides at recess and snow days with good sledding.

The only way violence ever truly wins is if we forget to teach our children that.

If we forget -- even with bullet casings on the floor where children sit criss-cross-apple-sauce and listen to books about Paul Bunyan or Jemima Puddle Duck -- to look up.

A child taught me that.

about David Cook...

David Cook is the award-winning city columnist for the Times Free Press, working in the same building where he began his post-college career as a sportswriter for the Chattanooga Free Press. Cook, who graduated from Red Bank High, holds a master's degree in Peace and Justice Studies from Prescott College and an English degree from the University of Tennessee at Knoxville. For 12 years, he was a teacher at the middle, high school and university ...

Comments do not represent the opinions of the Chattanooga Times Free Press, nor does it review every comment. Profanities, slurs and libelous remarks are prohibited. For more information you can view our Terms & Conditions and/or Ethics policy.
timbo said...

Why does the TFP publish this idiot? I hope you don't pay him for this drivel.

To try to enlighten the emotionally immature left is difficult but I will try. I will explain it like I would to a kindergarten kid afraid of things that have little chance of touching him.

Mass murders in this century of 4 people of more. 432 in 100 years for an average of 4.32 per year.

Number of people struck by lightning that died in the US. We average about 100 per year. If we multiplied it by 100 years (a century) it would equal about 10,000 people.

Number of people killed in bicycle accidents in 2010. 610.

Number of people killed by drunk drivers. 10,288 in 2010>

Number of people killed by guns. 47,856 between 2006 and 2010. That is an average of about 10,000 per year.

Number of people killed in the bathtub. 15,900 people were killed in 1998 due to falls in the shower / bathtub.

Now, I am going to explain this like I would to a child since liberals are on the emotional level of children.

We live in a dangerous world. Many, many things can kill you. There are 320 million people in this country and the chances of you being killed in a mass murder are about .0000015625 percent. Mass murders are so rare that they are statistically insignificant. There were more people killed riding bicycles in 2010 than died in ALL mass murders this century in the US.

20 times more people were killed falling in the bathtub. 20 times more people were killed struck by lightning. Drunk drivers kill just as many people as guns. Should we make cars illegal? Drunk driving is illegal but they still take a car (similar to a gun) and kill. Let's blame the car. Let's blame the alcohol (oh yea, we tried making that illegal), let's blame the bath/tub and we can spray down we a water hose.

For you emotionally immature liberal wimps to comment on this is ludicrous. Do you see how absolutely ridiculous you are? I WILL NOT GIVE UP MY 2ND AMENDMENT RIGHTS FOR SOMETHING THAT IS STATISTICALLY INSIGNIFICANT.

Emotional reactions turning into policy are why I am so afraid of liberals. Cook, don't be afraid, it is time to grow up someday you might just turn into a conservative.

December 16, 2012 at 2:14 p.m.
rwe6835 said...

Timbo- can you justify the need to own an assault rifle? (without quoting an unscholarly source like wikipedia) Your ignorance and complete lack of empathy for the families suffering right now is disrespectful and an obvious teller of how succesful you would be at running our country. But just for the sake of your argument, let's look at a country, China, with a government whose policy decisions are based more on statistical arguments and less upon LIFE, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness. China, being the communist country that they are, has gun control laws. How many people survived the stabbings just the other day? Were almost all of the children stabbed 6 or more times like the children shot in the school shooting? The concept of gun control is exactly how it reads. Controlled. They aren't taking your hunting rifle or shotgun away.

December 16, 2012 at 3:27 p.m.
hsb93 said...

"timbo"- People like you are what is wrong with this country, among other things. How on earth can you turn an article like this into a liberal vs. republican bash session? Children were brutally and senselessly murdered and all you have to say is "for you emotionally immature liberal wimps to comment on this is ludicrous". For ignorant, disrespectful jerks to comment is what's ludicrous. This tragedy has NOTHING to do with politics and the fact that you would even bring that up disgusting. Families lost loved ones. A school of children will be haunted by this event for the rest of their lives. This article was meant to be uplifting and hopeful in light of a horrific act of violence. How anyone could turn this event in to a political "I want my guns" rant is beyond me. Have a little respect.

December 16, 2012 at 4:05 p.m.
emilyro said...

Thank you for this beautiful article, Mr. Cook.

I think "Timbo" could take a piece of kindergarden advice: if you don't have anything nice to say, don't say anything at all. Death due to any cause is horrible, and anyone advocating prevention where possible is admirable.

December 16, 2012 at 11:41 p.m.
Downtownman said...

Timbo, when a bicycle, bathtub, lightning can be used to slaughter 20 children, I might buy your argument. Why only include mass murders? throw in accidental shootings, suicides and the local redneck shooting someone "cuz they done him wrong".

to me people like you are more than adequate proof this county has drifted far from any kind of decent morality.

Stay and home and fondle and cherish and love the guns you so desperately need. I'm sure this will insure you will not be a Mrs. Lanza.

December 17, 2012 at 1:17 p.m.
TNative said...

Timbo, your mastery of statistics and death would make Himmler blush. Well done.

December 17, 2012 at 4:22 p.m.
joedeg said...

Mr. Cook, this is an excellent column. Timbo, referring to the mass-slaughtering of 20 first-graders as "statistically insignificant" is perhaps the most dark-hearted, inhuman, and offensive thing I've ever seen. The murder of an innocent child is significantly horrible whether it happens once a day or once in a million years.

December 18, 2012 at 9:32 a.m.
HimJim37 said...

Mr. Cook described some genuine emotional responses and then got screeched at by a psychopath! Unfortunately, this is fairly common on the TFP website because of the anonymous commenting. At least Timbo can look stupid anonymously.

@Timbo, statistics is not the Sesame Street comparison of how many of this to how many of that. It is a science of context, correlation, and probability. First, mass murder is discrete from your examples because it has the same paralyzing effect on society as a terrorist attack but is highly preventable with basic precautions. (It is not comparable to a bike accident). The assault weapons ban ended in 2004, leaving 6 to 7 years for these expensive weapons to enter the flow of commerce, saturate the market, and reach the crazies. In the past year, there have been two attacks with absurdly high fatality levels that could not have been achieved without easily obtainable battlefield weaponry. If the assault weapons ban had been renewed, dozens of lives would have been saved. That is an easy public policy fix, and no amount of NRA bluster about the danger of emotions (those emotions, always ruining society) is going to make reality go away.

I do not believe that NRA-fueled diatribes like Timbo's and the inclinations of a lunatic like Adam Lanza are unconnected at all. I think our society has all but nurtured this vein of rot that celebrates destruction and scorns empathy. We should drill it out.

December 18, 2012 at 2:17 p.m.
reasonspeaks said...

Its apparent to me that Mr cook woould rather talk Gun control given the issue is making a lot of press. I wonder if we would get the same type of reporting over the hundreds of children aborted in the united States ( including Connecticut) every day. What about there rights? Are they not as precious? Who is defending them? Its not the Goverment.

December 18, 2012 at 9:30 p.m.
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