After listening to the coverage for most of a day, feelings are still running high. One is tempted to think that they can be better managed if one can only get the answers to certain questions.
Chief among those is, "Why?" It presupposes that that answer brings with it a way of preventing more of these tragedies. We wish to believe if we know why each shooter did his act, we can find the cues to stop more of them. So we dig. And we lay out the facts as if they meant something.
We can describe the shooters, find patterns. Mostly male, young, finding themselves aggrieved, having often legal access to guns. Mental illness seems guaranteed, whether or not there's an established history, for how could any sane individual even contemplate such an act, let alone carry it out? And there is no explanation which can really explain what happened in a way to make it comprehensible.
But each of these characteristics describe tens of millions of us. Collectively they still describe many thousands. If they were clues, wouldn't they be predictive? And wouldn't there be many many more of these tragedies? Only after the fact do we even sort these things out as we scrutinize the shooters' lives. But we seem to be missing the trigger, the one thing that spurs each of these people to violence, the one thing that lets them step across that line, the one thing which separates them from us.
We need to separate them from us. And from our neighbors. We need not to be them or to be around them. How on earth do we do that?
It's easy to fasten on to a single facet. Take gun control. If there were no easy access to -pick your weapon or ammunition - this couldn't happen. Perhaps. We can look to similar incidents happening in China, school attacks by men wielding knives. Yesterday, the same time the news broke, there was a report of an attack on 32 children. They were wounded, not killed. Make of that what you will, but can it stop these attacks? Will it be enough to lessen their severity? Likely there are 20 sets of Connecticut parents right now who would choose that option if they could. But would it be enough?
Or take bullying. If we stop that in schools, surely countless lives will be improved, a goal worthy in itself. But will it be what stops these shootings?
Or take mental illness. There are many kinds and many levels of illness. So many of the mentally ill are non-violent, and even those who are not would never contemplate this kind of act. If we fasten on this facet, we are picking the meaningless. It merely serves to separate ourselves from the incomprehensible.
Some will take their meager comfort in the idea that it is "God's Will". What kind of a God wills this? The follow up phrase is always that we are merely human and God is unknowable. Trying to come to grips with that issue through the ages has driven many from their faiths. Whatever kind of Creator or force you hold responsible for us all being here, it seems apparent there is no effort to prevent these events outside of our own. Justify that any way you please. Then ask yourself what is your personal responsibility now?
This particular time there was a horrible difference. The reports are all of persons killed. Not ___ dead, ____ wounded. They haven't explained yet. Were the victims shop with a - pardon - dead aim, kill shots all? Or shot so many times they bled out before help arrived? Or shot with such damaging bullets that too much damage was done to allow survival?
We as a nation are left with grief. Some level of fear. And our questions.