I have to admit it. I'm a serial reader of online comments to almost every story I access to do my job (and many that have nothing to do with it). It never ceases to amaze me what people will write when they think nobody will ever call them on it. Lucky for me I have no desire to comment about anything myself. That could get me in real trouble. However, the debate over gun violence and the regulations President Obama has proposed to make it less frequent have brought out the absolute worst in people.
We know (at least I hope we do) about the threats of secession, impeachment, and the callous use of the President's daughters in an NRA attack ad. Just when you thought it couldn't get any worse, here come a group of trolls badmouthing (of all things) the beautiful voices of the Children of Newtown. If you don't know about them, know only that they are children from the Sandy Hook Elementary School, and they came together in the home of Chris Frantz and Tina Weymouth (Talking Heads, Tom Tom Club) and recorded a beautiful version of "Somewhere Over the Rainbow".
After reading the story, and just before downloading the video, I read the comments following the article in on online edition of one of NYC's tabloids. I was astonished. Post after post questioned the agenda behind the song, criticized parents for letting their children sing it, and some questioned if the Sandy Hook Massacre even took place! I was momentarily dumbfounded. What would lead rational adults to comment with such venom?I thought for a minute about the horrific prospect of some of these people actually owning guns (I thought the same thing about Alex Jones to be honest).
Then it hit me. The vehement reaction to the children of Newtown was driven by two things, fear and power. These commenters feared those angelic little children as much as they feared an armed intruder. Maybe even more. The power of those children's voices to change American minds about guns is what the online trolls fear, because they can't control it.
Those children, they know, will more than likely grow to adulthood rejecting the gun culture that far too many in this country embrace. Those children know, firsthand, the violence our obsession with guns can bring. Their voices represent change more than any mere piece of legislation does. And so, the trolls snipe. And they'll continue. And they'll eventually lose.
The power of children's voices, raised in song, is not a power they can fight and hope to win.