Too Crowded with Angels

It is one of the most moving lines from one of the most moving moments in the history of television.  Aaron Sorkin, in one of the finest episodes from his brilliant hit series The West Wing, writes for his fictional president a fictional speech following the bombing of an athletic facility on a fictional college campus in which he repeats, not once, but twice, the phrase: “the streets of heaven are too crowded with angels…”

My friends, as you know all too well, the streets of heaven these days are far too crowded with angels, many of them still shy of their 7th or 8th birthday; children who still believed in Santa Claus and the Easter Bunny; innocents who never got to fall in love for the first time, never got the chance to pick out a school or choose a career, never got to marry, never got to have their hopes dashed or their dreams fulfilled, never hit a home run or cooked Thanksgiving dinner, and never got to experience the indescribable joy of a first kiss, a first car, or a first child.

Yet make no mistake; these angels are among us still.  Their memories still cling to us, what happened to them still hijacks our thoughts, and the brutal way in which they were ripped from their families’ grasp still continues to gnaw unrelentingly at something deep within us.

That’s why in Washington these days, not surprisingly, there seems to be very little appetite for partisanship, much less one-upmanship, and that’s why all the rhetoric has been reduced to little more than a measured whisper.

That’s why, for the first time since maybe ever, this country may just be able to engage in a reasoned and fruitful debate about what role, if any, assault weapons should play in the lives of its people, much less its children.

And that’s why this whole fiscal cliff thing may just end up being little more than a whole lot of hot air expended over a very visual and very poetic, but in the end very unfortunately turned phrase.

In most years, it would be easy to say in this season of peace on earth and good will toward men that the time has come to set aside our differences and act as single brotherhood, rather than behaving like a collection of disjointed parts and warring self-interests.  But given the gnawing pain and the lingering pall that continues to grip us as we continue to try to somehow make sense of this horrific senselessness,  even that sentiment seems at its very best to be quaint, and at its worst to be sadly naïve.

And maybe that’s at least part of what we’re supposed to take away from all this;  to wake up, to open our eyes, and to embrace the only thing that truly matters in life.  Maybe that’s the lesson those little angels in that ill-fated school in Sandy Hook were trying to teach us, even as they were there trying to learn themselves – that the only jobs that any of us on this Earth have that truly matter are to hold one another dear, to protect one another ferociously, and to treat one another as precious and oh so-fleeting gifts.

And who knows?  Who the heck knows?  Maybe that’s how our political leaders will end up getting beyond this fiscal cliff thing.  Maybe that how our bankers and private equity managers will eventually get all that idled money back flowing again and back circulating from pocket to confident pocket.  And maybe that’s how business leaders large and small and from coast to coast will finally get this lumbering, slumbering and still rusty economy of ours back on its feet again; clear-eyed, re-energized, re-lubed and re-dedicated to taking on whatever the global market has in store.

By all of them — all of us, really — coming to the realization that at some point in our lives all that stuff will seem so insignificant it will have hardly existed.  And by realizing that nothing in this world we make can’t be fixed or replaced; be made again, and be made just as well if not better.

Believe me folks. The best thing we can do for this country and its economy — at least for the time being — might just be to realize that none of that stuff matters. It just doesn’t. Not really. Not compared to all those angels. And certainly not compared to all those too-crowded streets in heaven.

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