School shooting: Evil speaks and someone is listening

A young boy is comforted outside Sandy Hook Elementary School after  shooting in Newtown, Connecticut, Friday.  REUTERS/Michelle McLoughlin

On Friday, I wrote a Sentinel Editorial about the growing insanity of a gun culture that has a nation so heavily armed that death-dealing weapons inevitably fall into criminal and unstable hands.

Of course, no one could  have known that yet another disturbed individual would use guns to wreak horror — this time killing 20 innocent young children at a school in Connecticut, along with adults, including his mother.

The tableau unfolded in a familiar, if funereal, fashion. Grieving and shocked families. A sorrowful president speaking from the White House. The media on full alert. Law enforcement searching, searching for some sort of clues that would explain the unexplainable.

And yes, we know that even if elected leaders set out to demilitarize America, it won’t be any sort of guarantee deranged people won’t have access of guns to perpetrate their evil schemes.

And clearly, we live in a culture that also has become desensitized to violence. The volatile mix of violent movies and digital “entertainment” can percolate in the minds of the seemingly growing population of young men harboring revenge fantasies or guarding insane plots.

Add in the relatively easy access to guns — purchased, stolen, borrowed, does it matter? — and we all watch as yet another unspeakable tragedy unfolds.

Hours after the tragedy unfolded and the explanations came forth, darkness descended Friday on the school and the scene.

God, protect our children.

Let there be light.

***

Last July, after the Aurora, Colorado, movie theater massacre by a deranged young man armed with an assault rife, I posted a blog that, reading it six months later, seems timely. Here it is:

By now, we’ve almost become numbed by the report of yet another mass murder.

Although the victims and the methods are often different, a couple of things remain the same. The awful senselessness of tragedy and lives, usually young, lost — and the characteristics of the perpetrators.

Young men. Some with deep seated, if irrational, grievances. Others with mental illness. But inevitably they are described as “loners,” and these days have some sort of relationship with technology, wherein many seem to be forlornly seeking an identity.

The Aurora, Colorado horror continues to play out with the grief expressed by families and friends at their unspeakable losses and with the seemingly crazed gunman being dissected by crime analysts, TV talking heads and bloggers (!).

Was James HOlmes, the whip smart but failed PhD candidate who came from a normal family and lived on a government stipend,  yet another example of our country’s feeble gun laws? Was it just too tempting the easy availability of murderous weapons capable of quickly wiping out an entire crowd, along with a small crate of ammunition? This is the most popular “cause” cited, especially by Santa Cruz County commenters and emailers to the Sentinel. Others blame it on politicians who have cut money from mental health programs.

Or was he influenced by the darkness of pop culture — the doom and gloom of “The Dark Knight Rises” Batman movie, or the Joker’s insidious, invidious evil from 2008?s Batman cinematic dark night?

Is it that America has increasingly lost a generation of young men, through unemployment and lack of purpose and accomplishment? Lacking the disciplines of work, family, church — even military service — the lure of virtual personhood for the most vulnerable becomes a snare they can’t work their way out of. While only a twisted tiny minority turn to violence, much less mass murder, what’s happened to males in our culture seems hard to ignore.

The politicians and the entertainment moguls and the sociologists all have their answers, even if they’re non answers.

But is it this? That although we live in a society that now believes human beings can be perfected —  with the right child rearing, education, government programs and shared values passed along by our best thinkers and policy makers — we’ve forgotten or stopped believing in the existence of evil.

What if it isn’t just about Batman or rejection by women or being outside the circle of elite cool kids or absent or missing parents? Most of us at one point in our lives try on identities, put on masks, see if they fit, or imagine ourselves as would-be world conquerors —  if only the world would somehow notice. Given the right, or wrong, circumstances, this search can tweak a young person’s thinking.

Why is it always men who fall farthest? Women, usually more sociable and able to seek out support, also struggle of course, sometimes with eating disorders, or addictions or unhealthy relationships. But the tweaked young man, so locked and loaded by forces he doesn’t even recognize, just retreats further into the abyss.

The prophet Jeremiah wrote more than 2,500 years ago that “The heart is more deceitful than all else and is desperately sick; Who can understand it?”  But we really don’t think that’s true anymore, do we?

And yet, although the lost boys might think they can come and go as they please, the darkness knows better. The abyss knows their names. Evil speaks, and someone is listening.

 

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