“We heard at one point that they found some people hiding in a closet, and all of us said Vicki would never be hiding in a closet. She would be out there protecting those babies,” Donna Soto, Victoria’s mother, told CBS News. Victoria’s close friend, Kate McLaughlin, told Sky News, “She would have done this for anybody. I don’t want to say it makes it easier but it takes away a little bit of the pain we are all feeling.” For Victoria Soto, protecting the lives of her students was more than a responsibility; it was an instinct. According to her cousin Jim Wiltsie, “…Her instincts were to get those kids out of harm’s way and that’s exactly what she did and unfortunately, she lost her life doing that — trying to protect her kids in the face of danger and she did instinctively what was in her heart — be a teacher.”
To be sure, Soto isn’t the only Sandy Hook teacher or faculty member to be praised for a valiant act that saved the lives of their students. The problem isn’t in the praise; it is in how the praise is being manipulated. “Finally,” an educator in my family sarcastically commented, “teachers are doing something right for a change.” Another family member was quick to note that teachers are “government employees” and, therefore, should not be subject to budget cuts – as if individual heroics are nothing more than an exercise in justifying budgetary line items to taxpayers.
Governments may institute laws that punish the act of murder; human beings must choose not to break the law. Governments may make it harder for a murderer to obtain a weapon; human beings must choose not to commit the act. Governments may train employees in emergency protocols; employees must choose not to panic in the face of danger. No amount of legislation in the world can eradicate evil, but every human being in the world can choose to do good.
What this nation lacks isn’t government. What this nation lacks is a people with faith in God to teach what is right, and faith in themselves and each other to do the right thing. A government “of the people, by the people and for the people” – whether it is a Constitutional Republic or a socialist democracy – is only as strong as its weakest link and right now, America’s entire chain is broken. The solution we are presenting ourselves is to become a nation of cogs. We’ve given up and given over to the monolith that is “government” unaware of the reality that we are the government – because we no longer see ourselves as individuals with choices to make. Like lemmings, we have made ourselves answerable to — not responsible for — one another. As a result, we have become subject to the whim of everyone from political leaders to reality TV stars. America may be a nation of free choice, but we as individuals have yet to understand that we must choose to remain free.
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