Not deferential enough: Bye, bye, lully, lullay

Posted Tuesday, December 18, 2012 in Opinion

Not deferential enough: Bye, bye, lully, lullay

The Martyrdom of the Holy Innocents

by Gina Hamilton

The Coventry Carol is one of the oldest Christmas season carols that we know about.  It wasn't written for Christmas, though, but for a feast day three days later, the Feast of the Holy Innocents.

The song opens with a haunting lullaby, sung by nuns:

Lully lulla, thou little tiny child, bye, bye lully lullay

Oh, sisters too, how may we do, for to preserve this day?

This poor youngling for whom we do sing,

bye, bye, lully lullay...

It was written for a mystery play, a pagent by a couple of guilds in Coventry, England, in the 1500s.  It goes on to describe the mass slaughter of the children of Bethlehem, ordered by Herod, after the Holy Family escaped to Egypt.

The lullaby is an attempt to sing their souls to sleep, in remembrance on each December 28.

No one really knows if the slaughter of the Holy Innocents really happened.  In fact, there seems to be substantial evidence that it didn't happen, beginning with the timing of Herod's death, which occurred before the slaughter supposedly happened, and the fact that it isn't referenced anywhere other than scripture.

But we do know that a modern day slaughter of the innocents happened just this week.

The Bethlehem mothers and children had no defense against Herod's swords.  Nor did the children of Sandy Hook and their teachers have any defense against Adam Lanza's gun. 

But before you suggest that the teachers should have been armed, really give it some rational thought.  Do we want assault rifles hanging on the coat hooks in a kindergarten classroom? Do we want the kind of society that makes it necessary for teachers to blow the heads off teenagers or young adults who menace them, whether they are mentally disturbed or not? Is that the kind of society we really want?

Do we want our children to see that?

My guess is, that's not what we want.

I grew up with a dad who hunted.  I learned to shoot a bow and arrow as a young person, and I was pretty good at it, a virtual young Diana.  My dad thought assault rifles were absurd, ridiculous toys.  "If you can't drop a deer with two rounds," he said once while we were discussing the 1994 assault rifle ban, "you have no business being in the woods."  He thought anyone who 'needed' an assault rifle was not only nuts, he or she was incompetent and shouldn't be trusted with a firearm.

I admit I feel the same way.  I accept the second amendment right to bear arms, but I think we should conform to what the founders intended with that 'right', which is a single shot, flintlock musket, takes about a minute to reload, and you make your own musket balls out of lead on your hearth.  And you go to the village green and practice drilling and target shooting every week, because, after all, you're a member of the militia and it should be well-regulated.

If you can't do what you need to do with a weapon like that, you probably shouldn't own one.

And you certainly shouldn't let your mentally challenged child have access to it.

Nancy Lanza cared deeply about her son Adam.  She cared enough to pull him from a school that wasn't providing what he needed and schooled him at home.  She and her ex-husband agreed about Adam's treatment and schooling, and the ex-husband paid a lot of money to allow Nancy to stay home with her son.  She knew there was something profoundly wrong with Adam; when a caregiver looked after him, she warned the caregiver never to let Adam out of his sight.

But somewhere along the way, she heard the siren call of gun 'enthusiasm'.  She legally bought handguns and an assault rifle, which she enjoyed using for target practice.  Maybe it helped her with the stress of having a special needs young adult son.  It's hard to know. 

One day, Friday, Adam took her toys and decided to play, too.  He first shot his mother multiple times in the face and head, then took the guns over to a nearby elementary school and calmly, systematically, killed 20 children and six adults, before taking his own life.

There can be no reasons that make sense for this.  Adam had apparently tried to get guns of his own, and was turned down.  Whether that was because of his age or his disability is not clear.  Perhaps it was because he attempted to use his brother Ryan's identification, and that was from out of state.  In any case, what passes for 'gun control' in the U.S. worked in his case.  But he had access to a whole lot of murder machines at home, and there was no control in place that could have stopped him from using them, because Mom had bought them legally, and she wasn't mentally ill or disabled.

When I first heard about the possibility of a school shooting, I knew what the outcome would be.  So did everyone else.  The perpetrator would turn out to be a white, middle class adolescent boy or young man, a loner who played video games, someone with legal access to enormous firepower, someone with a mental disease or defect that should have prevented him from having access.  He would commit suicide. He'd manage to take several innocents along with him. No one would ever know why he did it, or his reasons would seem so wild that they wouldn't make sense to sane people.

There can BE no reasons that make sense.  There ARE no reasons that make sense.

We've seen this film before.  We'd seen it eighteen times this year alone.  We've seen it sixty-one times since Columbine.

When does the Feast of the Holy Innocents end?

Lully, lulla, thou little tiny child, bye, bye, lully lullay.

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