TV always seems to throw a story like this one in the blender, so that what comes out is indistinguishable from the last horror, or the one before that, and the result weirdly numbing. When we read some of the smaller details, though — about the kid who said he wouldn’t have anybody to play with now that his sister had died, or the boy who said he knew karate and could save the others — we feel the enormity of what happened at Sandy Hook Elementary, and we cry that we won’t stand for it.
Only, then what? I hope we won’t waste too much time arguing over whether gun control, or better mental health treatment, or pushing back against violent video games is the proper place to start; in my mind, the answer is all of the above.
If guns alone — or even guns plus lousy-to-nonexistent mental health services — were the entire problem, why were no little red schoolhouses fired on in the Wild West, where everyone was armed and mental illness completely untreated?
There are pieces of this problem strewn across the political spectrum: The left is correct that actually, guns do kill people. But the right has a point, too, about the “culture of death,” in the language of John Paul II’s “Gospel of Life.” And if we haven’t glorified even mass shootings and their perpetrators, then why does one shooter after another show up dressed all in black, like an anti-hero ready for his big finale? Struggling to understand, we insist on referring to the actions of people who must be desperately sick as evil incarnate.
“Evil visited this community today,” said Connecticut Gov. Dan Malloy.
“No set of laws can eliminate evil from the world,” President Barack Obama told the grieving.
A well person doesn’t shoot a bunch of 6-year-olds, though, and while I believe in evil, from a Christian perspective, sin involves free will, which I’m not sure someone who acted as Lanza did was in any shape to exercise. Saying so is popularly seen as “excusing” such horrific acts; it doesn’t. Calling illness by its modern name is important because we have so much hard work to do, on multiple fronts, that we can’t afford to set off in the wrong century.