On Dec. 14, Adam Lanza shot his way into the Sandy Hook Elementary School. All total, he executed "20 beautiful children and six remarkable adults," as noted by President Barack Obama, who had traveled to the bereaved town, "to offer the love and prayers of a nation."
Obama told the gathering of Newtown, Conn., mourners that this was the fourth time in his presidency that "we've consoled the families of the victims," and that he had "been reflecting on this the last few days."
"We can't tolerate this anymore," he said. "These tragedies must end. And to end them, we must change."
The nation is failing at "our first task," said the president, which he said was to care for its children. "It's our first job. If we don't get that right, we don't get anything right. That's how, as a society, we will be judged."
Predictably, Webster's 4th ed. defines children as the "plural of child." The word, children, however, is defined firstly, as "an infant, baby," and secondly, as "an unborn, offspring, fetus."
This week marked the 40th anniversary of Roe v. Wade. Next week, on Feb. 3, it will be 19 years since Mother Teresa spoke at the National Prayer Breakfast. She had also come to pray. She reflected on the brokenness of America, and her surprise at seeing "so many young boys and girls given to drugs."
She observed the elderly in institutions, where they spend their "days hoping that a son or daughter will come to visit them. They are hurt because they are forgotten."
In a distant echo to Obama's "first job" she said, "Our children depend on us for everything..." She said many are very, very concerned for children in India or Africa, and admitted "quite a few die of hunger." Prophetically, she warned that, "Many people are also concerned about all the violence in this great country of the United States."
Mother Teresa continued, "I feel that the greatest destroyer of peace today is abortion, because it is a war against the child, a direct killing of the innocent child, murder by the mother herself. And if we accept that a mother can kill even her own child, how can we tell other people not to kill one another?"
Both a nun and a president have observed a need for change. Seven in 10 Americans agree, and think our nation is going in the wrong direction. America has many problems, and little good news of late.
Vice President Joe Biden's task force has focused on assault weapons and violent videos. But cooperation and consensus in America remain elusive. In a year-end issue of People magazine, Obama referred to a "very fierce ideological rigidity."
During his the 2009 commencement address at Notre Dame, Obama called for finding common ground but said when the "fudging" stops, the two abortion sides are "irreconcilable."
The proposal here is that the counsel of a tiny and saintly nun from India finally be taken seriously. Cannot something be done to protect more of our children? At the rate of 4,000 per day, 20 of our children are aborted every seven minutes in America.
Ironically, the president spoke words similar to Mother Teresa: "Can we honestly say that we are doing enough to keep our children —all of them — safe from harm?" Can we say that we are truly doing enough to give all the children of this country the chance they deserved to live out their lives in happiness and with purpose?"
The president concluded, "... if we are honest with ourselves, the answer is no. We are not doing enough. And we will have to change."
To protect more of our children, born and unborn, a real change of direction is needed. Cooperation and compromise are both essential.
Could not a ban on some assault weapons be combined with a ban on abortions after viability, except for the life of the mother?
Such a proposal would be unlikely to truly satisfy anyone, but would it not be a step toward sanity for a struggling, and deeply divided, nation?
Cannot some good come from this Newtown tragedy?
Dr. A. Patrick Schneider II is a Lexington family physician.