I don’t have anything useful to say about Friday, but I have to write something, inelegant or no. This may wander a bit.
There is a lot being said — as usual — in the aftermath of the unspeakable evil committed on Friday. Many people have opinions, and all of those opinions seem to be on the Internet. And, as is typically the case with Internet opinions, people seem to find it necessary to fight about them.
And that’s fine. Whatever. If it makes you feel better, go for it. I guess. Seems like an awful waste of time and psychic energy, but hey — whatever.
One of the opinions going around is being championed by Morgan Freeman, who basically says that we shouldn’t even have news stories about tragedies like the Newtown, CT elementary school massacre. There is a point there; probably some of these atrocities are inspired by past atrocities, or their actors are motivated by some sense of immortality. I’m not really sure that I believe this is the case 100% of the time; seems to me that if you are crazy or evil enough to go kill a bunch of children, you’re not exactly thinking about which news stations are going to show up. But how would I know? I certainly hope that I can’t really get inside the mind of a monster.
If you’re worried about the next monster being inspired by the specter of fame, then don’t publicize his name and photo (assuming law enforcement isn’t actively trying to find him). We don’t need to know his name. All anyone in Idaho is going to do with the name of a killer in Connecticut is look to see if they can find his Facebook profile.
But I don’t think we shouldn’t have news stories. I think we have a basic human need for information, to know — and try to understand — what is happening. I think that dialogue (maybe even fighting on the Internet) is important for progress and healing. In those horror-stricken hours after something like this happens, we need each other and we need answers. We need community, even if that is only a community knit together by shock and dismay. I don’t think it’s catastrophe voyeurism. I think we need to huddle together and speak.
As the horror unfolded on Friday, I was sitting in a computer lab with about two dozen upperclassmen, mostly young men, all students in our district’s tech-oriented academy. They were busily working on a final project, and when they took mental breaks and surfed away to off-task websites, they were reading news stories about video games, not senseless slaughters.
I was watching a live feed via CBS’s website with the sound turned down low, hoping my kids wouldn’t see that I was crying, half-hoping they would. I got through three hours with them, went upstairs and administered a make-up test, and then — finally alone — broke down.
These were innocent little babies. You’re always horrified when something like this happens anywhere… but no one ever thinks it will happen in a first grade. There’s murder, there’s mass murder — and then there’s the murder of six-year-olds. There’s nothing in my mind that can make sense of that.
I don’t know what to say about gun control, mental health reform, or any of the other solutions being thrown around this weekend. The boys in my classroom on Friday don’t fall very far from the Newtown murderer’s section of the Venn diagram, at least according to current news reports. Many of them are socially awkward and brilliant, have Aspergers, don’t make great eye contact or dress in style. We live in Huntersville, so most of them have guns at home. None of them should be arbitrarily locked up, or relieved of their hunting rifles, just because they’re different. But if one of them did something awful, everyone would be saying, “Oh, we all saw the signs. He was an outsider, an introvert, a nerd. He was a gun-owner.” Well, yeah. Being those things doesn’t make you a killer.
I believe that what we saw on Friday wasn’t sickness or social failure. I believe it was evil. I don’t know if evil is something that exists in a person, or if it is an outside force that acts on a vulnerable person. I suppose that’s a question for the theologians. But nothing but evil can explain what happened on Friday.
I know that I am sickened and so saddened that there are no words for it. Part of this, I am sure, is that I’m going to have one of those little babies. Always, this would have horrified me. But now, there is a concrete horror, a little boy who will be a first grader who I’ll have to leave in a classroom every morning and trust that I will see again that afternoon. Part of it is being a teacher and knowing what the teachers at Sandy Hook did to protect their children, knowing what some of them gave and what those last moments must have been like. Just two days earlier, my school had a lockdown drill; I was in that same computer lab with that same group of students. I think about sitting there in the dark against the wall, listening to the hum of computers and the rattle of doors being checked, and wonder what would happen if something like that happened to us.
What is there to say? I don’t know.