Monday, April 16, 2007

Massacre Control

I've never committed any crime. Which is not to say I've not had intimate associations with the criminal justice system. And with the civil justice system as well. As if there were such a thing as justice. Ah well. We live in an imperfect world. I probably had a nodding acquaintance with each and every cop in the certain suburb in which I raised my family. One of my boys, you see, didn't start out with me. As the twig is bent, so grows the tree. Turns out I wasn't the tree surgeon I had hoped. Ah well. Regret could devour the soul. Teach us to care, and not to care. Teach us to forgive every imperfection -- those of the world, and of our boys, and of ourselves.

Now another young man has aroused the interest of the criminal justice system. He took into hand this morning several firearms and gunned down some dozens of people. When I first heard the news, I excluded Moslem terrorism. Not their style. SUVs and bombs are more to the taste of that particular sect of Islam. It would have been a first. No, I expected it to be some white guy. Those whites are so violent. Turns out, according to what I've been hearing, that it was an Asian. Not Turkish -- Turkey of course is in Asia. Not Jewish -- Israel is in Asia. Not Middle Eastern. East Asian. I don't mind that stereotypes get broken. But I expect the lad was just studying too hard, and had to let off some steam.

What, gallows humor is inappropriate? Sir. More people are killed by peanut allergies than by Asian student handgun campus massacres. What's the big deal? It's hardly ever a problem.

Now there's some talk about handguns and their concomitant perils. I generally avoid that debate. My position should be obvious. Self-defense is an inalienable right. Someone said today that guns should be made more difficult to procure. I felt the need to quip, "Yeah, that's why drugs are so hard to get." Guns should be hard to procure, the same way a driver's license is. The Constitution assures us the right to bear arms, but there is that troublesome little clause, about a "well-regulated militia." Just a bit murky, but custom has clarified the matter.

I do own a gun. Never fired it. Bought it in 1992, just after clinton was elected. My reasoning was that he would try to ban gun ownership, and I wanted to beat the rush. I'm far more likely to engage an intruder in a philosophical discussion -- bring in issues of his childhood -- talk about God and grace and compassion. Which is not to say I wouldn't blow him away, given the need. I consider myself to be the agent of destiny -- the Righteous Arm of a Loving but Fierce Lord. My son, after all -- whom I raised -- has a job that may require him to ventilate the skulls of evil-doers of a certain confession and ethnicity. Good. Evil that will not be reformed must be destroyed. Or contained, to be Realistic about it.

So here's what I thought: if guns were not available, there would be just as many, or more, murders. With a gun, I kill someone and there's a big noise which brings attention to my crime and thus effectuates my capture. With a knife, I kill someone and move away in silence, so that over the course of the next few months and years I can kill many more. I, you see, am an opportunistic killer, and if I am not allowed my spree, I will kill serially. I speak in the abstract, of course -- all things averaging out in the end.

If this presumably young student had not walked down the halls picking off his cohorts with his array of guns, he would have gone to the internet and found the formula for some explosive or some gas or some poison -- or crept through the dorm at night with a machete. This is, alas, a rather deterministic view. But I think it is valid, even if not true. Is there a way to break out of this cycle of despair? No. Reformations and revivals and Great Awakenings are rare, whereas decadence is common. There are bright spots all across the globe. Bright spots, shining out of a great darkness. There is, alas, always much more night than there is daylight, when we factor all the vast black universe into the equation.

It's a matter of perspective. We must not focus on the evil of the world. Evil, like the universe itself, is boundless, given that every act of selfishness diminishes the beauty of life. This young student, this studious Asian boy, went mad, coldly insane, and calculated how best to impose his despair upon his world. Very efficient he was, too. Why did he think this needed to happen? Obviously because his heart was not touched by love. Poor lad. We never know, we never know what secret pain consumes the soul of even our close acquaintances. How can we? Even when we are honest, humor diffuses our intensity, or apathy keeps us from being heard. It's inevitable.

God needs us to have free will, so that He cannot be thought of as evil. He is not responsible for our evil. The evil that we do, we choose to do. There is always a way out of that temptation. Unfortunately that way out has to do with self-denial, with patience, with humility. Apparently wisdom too is a choice. It is a gift, available to those who ask for it. Asking is the free-will part. Life has taught me that I am an utter fool. I'm even more of a fool because I really don't ask God for anything, anymore. That must be something like despair. Well, I ask him to protect my son. But that's more out of fear, than trust. The last blow would be the harshest, and I could not survive.

What final blow fell upon today's gunman? It must have seemed unbearable. Perhaps it was the realization that he was unalterably alone. When hope dies, so do we -- whether we are the shooter, or the victims. The solution to this insoluble problem is almost too painful to contemplate. We must risk to love, so that such a light might bring hope to the lost.

I write this for myself.



Ms.Green said...

Interesting perspective, especially about being inalterably alone (which is a choice). I'm more inclined to think he did it out of anger. Not just ticked off anger, but rage. Anger is the root of all violence. Stoic on the outside, seething on the inside anger.

I would venture to say that there are millions of people walking around every day in the country who have the spirit of anger. His just finally took control of him.

Interesting post, as always.

Jack H said...

Today's great media insight is that Mr. Cho was a loner who didn't respond to anyone's greeting. Such a surprise. Indeed, solitude is a choice. The operative affect for this lad is no doubt pathological self-pity.

Here's Cho's play:

It's bizarre only in that *he* wrote it. I've written far weirder stuff, and haven't killed anyone yet. The stepfather says only one thing that's out-of-line. The crazy people are the normal people. It's almost self-parody.

But what isn't.