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On Dec. 14, the town of Newtown, Conn., was shaken beyond anything its citizens or any American could have fathomed possible. My heart continues to go out to all those affected as we remember those lost and are forever grateful to those who risked their lives to save others. We use this time now to mourn together. It is my hope that we may soon use what we learn from this event to have meaningful discussion around how to prevent such tragedy. We must put politics aside and come together, community leaders and citizens.

Yet, when community leaders use tragedy to play partisan politics, it becomes nearly impossible to accomplish anything positive and to create meaning from such loss. On his Facebook page on Dec. 14, Calvert County Commissioner Evan Slaughenhoupt (R) blamed liberals for the events at Sandy Hook Elementary, asking, “Why do Liberals insist upon having innocent children in defenseless schools making them prime for slaughter?”

The commissioner blames northern liberals for not properly protecting their children. Yet, here in Calvert County we do not have armed guards and metal detectors at our front doors. The commissioner also overlooked the fact that, like our area, Newtown is an overall conservative town in a liberal state. However, it is not the fault of liberals or conservatives. We will hear a lot about metal detectors and armed security versus stricter gun legislation and regulation. But while we shouldn’t simply repeal the Second Amendment, we cannot turn our schools into a military state. Forcing our children to live in fear is as much a denial of our inalienable rights as denying our right to bear arms. There are many countries in which armed guards are required to keep peace in the streets; America is not one of them.

America separates itself from these other countries through humanity and love. We invest in the people of our country, hoping that they see a better tomorrow than what we live through today. We need to continue to invest in the people of our nation, providing resources for a better, more holistic path to wellness. Mental health is often overlooked and underappreciated. While we may need to have a serious conversation about gun-related legislation, mental health and hygiene is a crucial aspect to our daily lives and extremely important in our battle to prevent such tragedies.

As we reflect on what has happened, towns across America look to their leaders, Democrat or Republican, for guidance and hope. We hug our children and family a little tighter at night, more thankful for what we have than before. And instead of laying blame across party lines, we look to them for sustainable solutions to the myriad of issues we face every day. We may not always agree on the path we should take, but there is no question that we all strive for the same thing in the end: a safer, brighter future for those we love so much.

Duwane Rager, Huntingtown

The writer is president of Southern Maryland Young Democrats.