Like so many, both in the U.S. and abroad, in columns, blogs, private conversations and other fora, I’m trying to grapple with yesterday’s events at Virginia Tech. We see the loss of human life and wonder how a human being could murder so many people he didn’t know, shooting his fellow students at random. We have seen such rampages before — and not just in the United State and not just in the past hundred years.
What is it that transforms one human being into a demon setting out to deliberately massacre his fellows? The gunman has been described as a “sullen loner.” But, others have experienced such isolation have not reacted by murder.
. . . it would be satisfying if we could somehow make sense out of this senseless act. . . . And yet it’s in our nature to try to make sense of the things we don’t or even can’t understand. But I’ll tell you something: Searches for reasons and explanations here are going to bring us up empty. The painful fact is that terrible things happen. There are evil people who do evil things. There’s nothing more to it than that. There’s no policy prescription that can make things like this never happen again.
I guess that’s why it troubles me that so many, on both sides of the debate, are already spinning the massacre as proving the need for increased regulation of handguns or greater use of concealed weapons permits. Yes, that is an important debate, but no matter how we change our gun control laws, we will alas likely never succeed in eradicating evil from the human condition.
Let’s save that debate for another day. Today, we should reflect on what happened, remember those whose lives were cut short at such a young age and honor those, like Liviu Librescu, who sacrificed their lives so that others might live. This Israeli engineering and math lecturer, a man who was born in Romania and escaped the Nazis, blocked the doorway to his classroom with his body, giving students there a change to flee.
When Cathy Seipp died last month, I wondered at how unfair it seemed that someone could die so young. Most of yesterday’s victims weren’t even half her age.
What yesterday reminds us is that life is not always fair. That we can’t always make sense of things, much as we wish to.
My thoughts and prayers go out to the Virginia Tech community, particularly to the families of those who lost a loved one. For those who want to find meaning in the universe, yesterday’s massacre presents us with a great challenge. And while one man’s action may cause us to question our faith in humanity, actions of others, like those of Professor Librescu, give us hope for our fellow man.
– B. Daniel Blatt (GayPatriotWest@aol.com)
UP-UP-UPDATE: In a column which shows a real understanding of the massacre, Charles Krauthammer writes:
Perhaps in the spirit of Obama’s much-heralded post-ideological politics we can agree to observe a decent interval of respectful silence before turning ineffable evil and unfathomable grief into political fodder.