Newtown School Shooting Tragedy: The Overflowing Cauldron Is a Better Metaphor than Dominoes

Everybody should watch the Public Broadcasting Service Independent Lens documentary Newtown. The appropriate responses should then be a determination to reduce violence. Is gun control part of that? Probably, but it can’t be the only part. Is widening access to quality mental health care essential? Yes, but that’s not what I’m talking about either.


One of the parents in the film says that he constantly reviews in his mind the chain of events which led to his child’s murder. He likened it to dominoes falling, and he ponders the spaces between the dominoes where people could have acted to prevent one domino from striking the next.

I think a better analogy than dominoes is a full, boiling cauldron. Inside, violence is visited upon the peoples of the world through military action and weapons transfers and sanctions and sieges. Violence is visited upon laborers in industries with inadequate safety standards. Men visit violence upon women worldwide with relative impunity. Violence is visited upon racial and ethnic minorities by police departments and criminal justice systems whose main goal is keeping the lid on the cauldron and making sure its violence doesn’t burn the privileged classes.

Every once in a while, though, a stream of boiling liquid escapes the cauldron and scars even the (lowest) rung of the privileged.

Is this a criticism of the activism of the Newtown parents? Yes, but I don’t intend it that way. It’s simply an appeal for people moved to activism by this terrible incident to remember the far greater number of people trapped in the cauldron.

P.S. You can get your multiple times per day depressing reminder of how often people shoot each other in the USA by following WellRegulatedMilitia on Twitter.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s