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Choosing Life in the Face of Death: Victoria Soto’s Last and Greatest Lesson

Do Americans understand the true meaning of the heroic self-sacrifice from the Newtown massacre?

by
Susan L.M. Goldberg

Bio

December 23, 2012 - 10:00 am

Victoria Soto, the Sandy Hook Elementary teacher slain in the Newtown massacre is being praised the world over as a hero – and rightly so. But is America being taught the true lesson of Soto’s sacrifice?

The reactions to the massacre in Newtown do not illustrate our culture’s value of human life so much as our desire to engineer the society in which we live. Whether the call for more gun control or less, the root of the argument is the same: human beings can create a perfect society through government, despite the fact that history has repetitively shown the exact opposite to be true.

Social engineering, an outgrowth of the industrial revolution, values human beings as assembly-line manufactured cogs in a wheel. Designed for a specific task, these human cogs are trained through government programming to follow bureaucratic blueprints for the creation and maintenance of a perfect society. This Marx-meets-manufacturing perspective may sound like the stuff of science fiction, but it continues to emerge over the course of human history. Ideas that sound innocent in theory are enacted with deadly results. Take, for example, one of the most grossly influential theories of social engineers in the late 1800s: Eugenics. This mad “science” that sprouted from Darwin’s Theory of Evolution posited that human beings could be determined “inferior” or “superior” based on their genetic makeup. This racial theory had as much influence on Margaret Sanger as it did Adolf Hitler. Both sought to engineer a “perfect” society and whether abortion or Holocaust, the result has been the same: A deadly lack of respect for the sanctity of human life.

It took less than an hour after we first learned about the events in Newtown for commentators to begin pontificating about gun control laws. We were never given an opportunity to mourn the dead. Those murdered were not valued as human beings, but as cogs to be used in the mechanical argument over the definition of a government-created perfect society. Even later arguments regarding mental health services were voiced under the auspices of government-funded programming more so than removing the stigma from, and promoting treatment for mental disease. Little to nothing has been said about the violent video games the shooter played, or the fact that his mother was a “Doomsday Prepper” like those seen and mocked on reality television. I wonder, when those comments finally make their way around the round tables, will that conversation also be guided by the advocacy of greater government regulation on media as well?

In the meantime, a nation mourns in silence, taught by example to channel their emotions into angry demands for government action, leaving little room for the comprehension — let alone teaching — of personal responsibility for the life of another human being. The real lesson of Newtown is the one that is being missed: Individuals are responsible to make the choice to value the sanctity of human life.

Noah Pozner, age 6, one of Adam Lanza’s victims. Click for more photographs of the children murdered in the massacre.

“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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Susan L.M. Goldberg is a writer with a Master's in Radio, Television & Film and a PhD in Life who would be happy roaming the fields of Prince Edward Island with Anne of Green Gables, were it not for her strong belief in the axiom "all that is required for evil to prevail is for good women to do nothing." She prefers "Renaissance Woman" as opposed to any career title found on Monster.com. Her writing tends towards the intersection of culture, politics and faith with the interest in starting, not stopping the discussion. Follow her on Twitter @SLMGoldberg and @winegirlblog
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