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Asna Ali
Wednesday, December 19, 2012
From Print Edition
 
 

The American public is reeling yet again in the aftermath of a deadly mass shooting. Twenty children, all between the ages of six and seven, and six adults were shot dead by Adam Lanza at Sandy Hook Elementary School.

Lanza, who has been described as having mental-health issues, then took his own life. As new details continue to emerge, families of the victims have received an outpouring of support both from their own community and from around the world.

Though this is not the first mass shooting incident of its kind in the US, it certainly is one of the deadliest.

In the United States the gun-control debate, which waxes and wanes in popularity, is expected to reach fever pitch following this tragedy.

The youth of many of the victims and the circumstances surrounding the incident make it likely that both mental health and weapons control will become hot-button topics, at least for a while.

However, despite President Obama’s pledge for “meaningful action,” little is likely to change, given the popularity of guns in America.

Here in Pakistan, the coverage of this incident has generated a wide variety of responses from our public.

These range from sympathy for the victims’ families to confusion about how something so horrific could have happened in an outwardly civilised and safe place like the United States.

Unfortunately, another group of internet commentators has chosen this moment to express their grievances against the US, along with smug satisfaction at its failure to protect its children.

Given the nature of Pakistan’s relationship with the United States and the hold that it has on our collective psyche, it is not at all surprising that some Pakistanis have chosen this time to use ‘what goes around comes around’ arguments.

Some are reminding their more sympathetic fellow-readers of drone attacks and the war on terror that have led to thousands of deaths in Pakistan; the logic presumably being that it is somehow wrong to mourn for the children of those responsible for violence in our country.

What we really need to be reminded of, though, is that sympathy is not a zero-sum game. The death of a child, the loss of a life, is a tragedy that must be mourned without regard to ethnicity or nationality.

We have lost many innocents and our children have suffered much and it is our duty to remember them, but that does not mean that we have a right to mock or politicise the deaths of others’ children.

Grieving along with devastated American parents does not mean that we are somehow forgetting or betraying our own dead.

Our ability to feel the pain of others simply means that we have managed to retain our humanity and our kindness of heart despite the turmoil and violence in our country.

It means that we have not given in to extremist mentality and still understand that behind enemy lines there live innocent children like our own, who do not deserve to die or to have their deaths celebrated because of what their elders have done.

Undoubtedly, drones and terrorism are issues that need to be discussed. Our dead need to be remembered and honoured, but not in this manner.

Let us turn the conversation about the Sandy Hook school shooting into something meaningful.

Let us make it an exchange about how to reduce the presence and impact of weapons in our lives and how to make the world a safer place to live for all our children; because unlike petty internet wars, that is a conversation that needs to be had.

The writer is a business studies graduate from southern Punjab. Email: asna.ali90@ gmail.com