, Derry, New Hampshire


December 27, 2012

It's no longer a black-and-white world

As a parent, teacher and columnist, I was tempted this week to share my views on the horror that struck Newtown, Conn., but I decided I’d simply be restating the obvious.

Then I came to Hampstead Middle School the following Monday morning, expecting my students to be visibly shaken. They weren’t. I expected at least some of them to want to talk to me about what they’d seen or heard on the news, or what a parent had told them. No one said a word.

I’m not a psychologist, but I kept thinking as the day went on, what would a human behaviorist say about my students’ reaction to the events the previous Friday?

I was a sixth-grader in the spring of 1968, and I remember exactly where I was and what I was doing when Martin Luther King Jr. was felled by an assassin’s bullet — watching the event unfold in the television department at Penney’s while my mother shopped elsewhere in the store.

I was terrified. And that same feeling washed over me again only two months later when Bobby Kennedy was gunned down in Los Angeles after winning the California presidential primary.

Like many of my students, I was raised on television. But when I channel-surf today and find an old favorite show of mine, I realize how drastically times have changed.

Sheriff Andy Taylor kept the good citizens of Mayberry safe without even carrying a gun. His bumbling deputy, Barney Fife, did, but he kept his only bullet buttoned up in his front shirt pocket, just in case. Gunfire was never necessary to rein in the antics of Ernest T. Bass.

The Cartwrights rarely shot the bad guys on “Bonanza,” and when they did, blood never flowed. Marshal Dillon always seemed conflicted. He’d much rather counsel horse thieves than fill them full of lead. There were never many smoking guns on “Gunsmoke.”

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