Amidst Evil, We Must Keep Our Heads

This is what is known so far. A gunman entered an elementary school in Newtown, Connecticut and killed twenty six people, twenty of them children, before taking his own life.

The media again showed itself to be unreliable. In the rush to get the story out first the number of victims kept changing, the wrong man was named as the killer, and an unknown character supposedly found by authorities at the edge of the school property turned out to not exist. Some of these mistakes are forgivable in a developing situation as stories with conflicting bits of information are put together. What is unacceptable is that some media outlets were interviewing children about their ordeal. These children barely had time to process their experience and both the media and their parents showed poor judgement in putting them in front of the cameras.

As word of the shooting spread both the governor of Connecticut and the president spoke. Governor Malloy rightly observed that “Evil visited this community today.”  President Obama reflected on the senseless loss of life, the experiences that those young children will never have and the overwhelming feeling of loss of the affected families. At times during the speech the President appeared to get choked up and wiped away tears as he offered his condolences. He spoke about coming together and helping to heal a community. Then came the sentence that put up a red flag:

“And we’re going to have to come together and take meaningful action to prevent more tragedies like this, regardless of the politics.”

Ordinarily, this is a required line in a statement by a public official that is trying to calm and reassure a disturbed public, but this is president Barack “Never Let a Crisis Go To Waste” Obama. True to form, the President brought up gun control again at a memorial service that was held two days later. On Wednesday he announced plans to form a commission led by the Vice President to study gun control.

At least he held back a couple of days. The President’s most avid supporters on this issue didn’t even wait for the bodies to arrive in the morgue before calling for more restrictive gun laws. A local talk radio host, who admirably tried to keep politics out of the conversation, took a hostile call on Friday afternoon from a listener demanding that he bet his job that the killer had not used an assault rifle. The facts were not yet even clear – an update announced that the wrong person had been identified as the killer not moments before that call – and the caller was adamant that guns were responsible and had to be outlawed. That call was not an emotional reaction to an unfolding event or a conclusion arrived at after consideration of the facts. It was a political reflex trying to take advantage of the situation.

The radio host did an admirable job of trying to stick to the facts and keep out politics. He said that the time for politics would come soon but that we should focus our attention on the people who were killed. What were their names, their hopes? What were they looking forward to during the holidays?

He commented that the killer is the one that gets the attention and we remember his name long after we have forgotten the victims. He refused to say the killer’s name for the rest of his broadcast which brought to mind the practice of another radio host. Michael Medved, when talking about especially evil people, uses the phrase “May his name be blotted out.” Essentially, someone who commits such evil should be struck from the historical record. We do ourselves no service by making a killer into a household name and enticing others to follow his path.

But let’s come back to governor Malloy’s observation. Some people, the President included, have taken to calling this act a tragedy. American Thinker’s Alan Fraser explains the misuse of the world tragedy:

“In today’s world, the repeated use of the word “tragedy” to describe vile atrocities is self-destructive, the tragic (in the classic sense of the word) irony of which is utterly lost on those who insist on bludgeoning us with it.  “Tragedy” elicits a passive response on the part of the listeners and the users.”

This is not a tragedy; it is not theater. The people involved are not actors that will get up after the last blackout when the klieg lights come back up for the curtain call. As governor Malloy stated, this was an act of evil. The families of the victims will have a permanent hole in their lives that will not be filled, even after the popular consciousness has moved on to the next “great tragedy.”

We owe the families of the victims our support, our condolences and our prayers. We also owe it to our society to get all the facts and have a reasoned discussion about how to address our problems. Amidst evil, we must keep our heads.

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