Opinion » Bill Cope

Under the Shroud

Pictures worth a thousand debates


It is an unnerving experience for me to support or recommend something I'm not at least three-quarters convinced is a good idea, and what I'm about to propose is 50-50, at best. So let's say that, rather than outright recommending it, I'm suggesting it as something we might consider for the health of our nation.

Yet we must understand and agree that even if nearly everyone in the country decided it's a good idea, it is not up to them, no matter how influential, rich, smart or highly-placed they may be. For this proposition to ever become a reality, it would be for only one group to decide. It would be for the families of those destroyed by gun violence to make the decision because the decision belongs to them alone. To make that decision, they would have to subject themselves to a level of pain that few of us can even imagine. They would have to OK the release of the photographs of their dead, not as they looked before their deaths, but immediately after. They would have to let America see what becomes of flesh and bone when skulls and torsos—their loved ones' skulls and torsos—have been savaged by a multitude of high-velocity bullets.

I can take neither credit nor blame for this idea. Weeks ago, while researching the monsters who continue to insist the slaughter at Sandy Hook Elementary was staged by the government, I came across it from several legitimate sources. The piece I was doing (for my Mr. Cope's Cave blog on boiseweekly.com) concerned the persistent harassment one Newtown father in particular has endured.

Lenny Pozner was so outraged over this conspiracy-minded trash's claim that his murdered son, Noah, was a fabrication, he fought back. He produced certificates of birth and death. He posted what few report cards his first-grader had accumulated. He put online photo after photo of Noah—Noah alone, Noah with his twin sister, Noah with his whole family—but it hasn't been enough to satisfy the jackals. At least one of them actually demands Noah's body be exhumed for his own examination.

Such an abomination is not what I'm suggesting here. But other people are asking a valid question: How honest is the debate over guns if Americans don't bear witness to what actually happened to those fragile little bodies in Noah Pozner's classroom?

That was six weeks ago, on the third anniversary of the Sandy Hook shooting. I briefly considered writing this column then, but chickened out, deciding I didn't have the stomach to argue that parents of the victims should put themselves through such an ordeal... again.

Then, less than a week into this new year, the president took on the gun cartel, issuing executive actions to extend background checks. While invoking the memory of Sandy Hook, he wept. Whether it was from sorrow, rage or a combination of the two, we can only guess. He did say, as a tear rolled down his cheek, "Every time I think about those kids, it gets me mad." But I know from personal experience that it doesn't require anger to cry over Sandy Hook, even three years later. Anyone with a humane soul has cried, and will continue to cry, over Sandy Hook.

Predictably, the soulless took it as another opportunity to screech their scorn for Obama, accusing him of everything from unmanly behavior to having an onion up his sleeve in order to feign an emotion they can't—in their shriveled hearts—bring themselves to admit he sincerely has.

Out of my own rage that there can be such morally vacuous brutes—many of them to be found on air daily at Fox News—I have began to wonder if perhaps Mr. Obama had seen something the rest of us hadn't. If anyone has access to inside information from such a national tragedy, surely it would be him. And might that inside information be the photographic record of what the first responders found when they entered the Newtown school?

The first responders to Sandy Hook are, and will continue to be, plagued by PTSD from what they saw. A 12-year veteran Newton cop, one of the first into the school, has said, "Nothing could prepare you for that. The worst possible scenes you could think of ... because all there was, was horror."

I believe we must ask if there's a useful purpose to which PTSD might be directed. Might that horror be channeled into a national awareness that we cannot tolerate this any longer? Might images so horrific and crushing they would never leave an honorable man's mind—images so devastating that a decent man would be moved to do everything within his presidential power to prevent such a thing from happening again—give the decent and honorable people of America the courage and resolution to unite against the barbarism?... the sort of savagery that would go so far as to deny the very reality of the horror their weapons have inflicted on America?

Noah Pozner's mother insisted Noah's funeral be open-casket. In spite of, more likely because of, Noah's having been shot 11 times, she wanted people to see what had been done to her son. The only concession she allowed to delicacy was that a cloth veil be laid over the bottom part of his face, to cover the horror that his lower jaw was gone. I'm asking you... should we lift that veil?