"The meditative reflection on display strikes one as a particular condition of a more general process -- the manner in which a type of fatalism has encroached on daily life at the very root -- in America."Oh save this: of the teacher who, realising what was happening, started yelling "lockdown", as per authorised procedure. Meaning, such things are now so anticipated they are prepared for like fires or floods. Meaning, people have sat round in rooms, gaming it out, working out what procedure would limit the deaths, triaging massacre. They work for the education department. But they now have the same role as jaded federal aviation authority types describe their job. They follow the bodies. By now, as they poured out of the City Hall, night had come down. Obama had landed in Danbury an hour or so earlier. He was visiting with parents of the dead children, relatives of the teachers, ahead of addressing a vigil at Newtown High School, the place the children would eventually have attended. I grabbed a cab, got on the freeway. The traffic thickened pretty quickly, it was obvious everyone had the same idea. We swung by Sandy Hook to see the school first, or the closest approach. The entrance was forest-dark, the backblocks of a small town, houses without fences in rolling hills, screened by trees. At half a dozen streets cherry tops flashing through the night, state cops with rainshields stretched over their hats. They were antsy, agro, as a lot of people around had been today. "How far is the school down there?" I asked pointing over the roadblock. "You're not going down to the school." "Sir I didn't ask to, I just asked ..." "I've been on here 11 hours OK, 11 hours buddy." "OK, I-." "Just go, just go ..." At the Newtown School, the gruesome electronic carnivale had set up along the main drag, truck after truck, platforms set ups lights and logos. Teleprompters scrolling to no one, faces being dusted. Local families walking the road to the hall. A feed showing them setting up deep inside. All calm, all practised. I stepped out of the cab, had a look at the plangently sad memorial pile, teddy bears and mauve balloons under the town's main square Christmas tree, and then we went to a Starbucks to file, caught on the freeway ramp for 20 minutes, as the presidential motorcade flashed past, and for some time after. Red lights and black cars in the night. There was something awful about it all, the massive movements of power in the service of broadcast compassion and comfort, shuttling ceaselessly through the night. All calm, all practised. Too calm, too practised. They are too good at this now. There is too much stricken meditation on the unknowable nature of evil, too much "this is not a day for politics", too much coming together, too much spirituality that is really passivity with a gloss, too many candles, too many floating lanterns. These things have become as polished and inverted in intent as teen funerals with their slideshow montages to Time of Your Life. There's something nauseating about such forbearance. The systematic and thorough killing of 20 children under seven should not be an occasion for which anyone is sufficiently prepared. By its very nature, it should be an occasion for hysteria, for disarray, for uncontrollable grief. Occupy Connecticut should not be spruiking floating lantern vigils, they should be besieging the office of the Sporting Shooters Association which lobbies for legal assault weapons, and which is headquartered in, gosh, Newtown, Connecticut. The meditative reflection on display strikes one as a particular condition of a more general process -- the manner in which a type of fatalism has encroached on daily life at the very root -- in America. Though expressed in religious terms, it seems to have more to do with the all-encompassing power of abstract systems, corporations, processes, a life lived in permanent suspension from the real. "We need to take action," the superintendent had said in Bridgeport and I brightened for a moment. "We need to take action to comfort, action to be vigilant." Which is not action at all, but its opposite. Now as I file, Obama is soon to speak in Newtown. He too has been called "the comforter-in-chief" in this strange and awful moment. Will he break out of that role tonight or in the days to come, put himself at the head of a movement to action? Or will the wailing move from the Bridgeport Hall, out the doors and across the nation?
In Connecticut, it’s too calm and too practised
The meditative reflection on display after the Newtown massacre seems too polished and well-practised. It's a particular condition of a more general process -- fatalism encroaching on daily life.