Updated: Dec 14, 2020
We’re expected to wrap our minds around something like this, but how? Where do you begin? An FBI profiler was interviewed about the tragedy a few hours after it happened, and all he could say about the shooter was that this was all about “just getting his feelings out” and that maybe this was due to “some kind of domestic dispute or something of that nature…” Deep, profound words from an “expert.”
The reason we can’t wrap our minds around something like this is quite simple: evil defies categories. You cannot make sense of it. It breaks all the rules. It goes deeper than psychological motivations, domestic disputes, or “getting your feelings out.” When attempting to explain something like this without resorting to the role of evil — which I understand to be a personal cosmic force hell-bent on our misery and destruction — a person sounds like an imbecile, much like what the FBI expert sounded in his attempt to “put this into some perspective.” There is no perspective for this sort of thing, short of a religious one. And that perspective is, frankly, cold comfort to the families who have just lost a child or another member of their family.
All we can possibly say is, God help those children and those families. God help us. Help us to make this world a less destructive, less tragic, and less evil place to live. God help us to love each other, for to choose to love is to choose to live. No matter the cost. And to live well is to love deeply. Anything much beyond that in terms of an explanation is pointless.
And then, when the shock dies down, either we talk about how we need to arm every teacher and put cops on every school playground, or we need to talk about how we can make sure that love wins, and all that that entails. It’s one or the other. There is no moderate path here, no room for politically calculated maneuvering or ideological fomenting. It’s either get armed to the teeth or love to the death. Take your pick. It’s either Malcolm X or MLK. Either an eye for an eye or turn the other cheek. It’s either retribution or redemption.
Sucks, doesn’t it?
Fact is, most of us will go on about our days in short order, while the lives of those families in Connecticut will never again be the same. Lives of parents, lives of children and teachers and classmates, brothers and sisters, grandparents, will forever be marked by December 14th, 2012, while the rest of us will go on because this is what we do in this day and age. No time for prolonged mourning, no time for deep, serious reflection about the deeply disturbing liabilities of a society that glorifies violence through its movies and video games and TV shows, or about the religious fervor of gun ownership in this country and how the whole argument for the 2nd Amendment has reached and gone over the tipping point of sanity into sheer lunacy. Again, I’m not saying we should ban all guns, but we should ban those that are made for the expressed purpose of killing a lot of things in quick succession. Is that really too much to ask?
Yeah, yeah, I know, “guns don’t kill people, people do.” But guns don’t use people to kill, people use guns to kill, and therein lies the cold logic of it all. I suppose nuclear weapons don’t kill people, either, but that’s no argument for making them available at your local Walmart. Take guns out of society and murder rates would go down precipitously. That’s the plain and simple fact. Look at the rest of the civilized world, whose gun laws are far more restrictive and severe. Their gun homicide rates are a fraction of what ours are, all because of our insane ideology about the 2nd Amendment, as if somehow it is holy writ.
We’ve collectively lost our minds, we Americans who foam at the mouth whenever the topic of guns comes up, thanks to the political cult known as the NRA, whose members think that gun ownership is an inalienable right afforded by God. But what if that “right” bumps up against the first right afforded to us by the Constitution, namely the right to life? Then what do you do? Hold on to your guns and shout all the louder like some crazed Chatty Cathy Doll that “Guns don’t kill people. People do!” Welcome to the circus known as patriotism gone mad, people. Feel free to pack your firearms, but please, check your brains at the door.
God bless those families, those children, that school and that community. Christmas will never be the same again. Their lives have been shattered forever. Yes, forever.
Ask not for whom the bell tolls.