The Ease Of Compassion And The Effort Of Hatred

The reactions to Newtown reveal the best and worst of who we are

When a tragedy as unimaginable as the one in Newtown happens, we all react in our own ways. People have wept, attended vigils, posted messages of condolence on Facebook, and donated to charity. But whatever you do, you’re going to be demonstrating either the best or worst side of who you are.

And it’s much, much easier to show your best side. You can show compassion. You can vow to be a better person. And you can carry through that vow by any number of actions.

Phones across the country were no doubt buzzing on the evening of Dec. 13 as sons and daughters and mothers and fathers called one another just to say, “I love you.” One blogger, a southeastern Connecticut teacher, urged people to let love be the legacy of Newtown. The “Operation Snuggle Newtown” put on by Patch and area businesses to collect stuffed animals for the children of Newtown, met with a response that can only be described as incredible. Businesses readily volunteered to be drop-off points, and collection boxes filled up rapidly.

Also incredible, for the wrong reasons, have been some of the more reprehensible reactions to Newtown.

There was whoever decided it would be a laugh to make a bomb threat to the church where a vigil in memory of the slain was taking place.

There were the boorish football fans who took to Twitter with racial slurs and other offensive words when they tuned in to see President Obama delivering remarks about the shooting instead of the 49ers playing the Patriots.

And of course, there was the the knuckle-dragging imbeciles who masquerade as a religious group because they toss God into whatever hateful stew they happen to be brewing. And because they decided they weren't already reviled enough by anyone possessing a brain and a heart, they decided they were going to picket the Newtown funerals.

And as always, the WBC was countered by people much better than them. Residents formed a silent barricade against the protesters, and thousands of signatures flooded a petition to formally declare the organization a hate group. And the “hacktivist” group Anonymous vowed to render them obsolete by waging the equivalent of an electronic carpet bombing of the WBC’s websites and Twitter accounts, taking down or hijacking each of their accounts. Of course, I can’t condone such a flagrantly illegal act.


In the end, it is so much better to make a gesture of kindness, no matter how small, instead of such a huge effort to be offensive or cruel. But it is also good to see that when it is time to stand up against hatred, there is never a shortage of volunteers.

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