Tuesday, October 03, 2006

The Horror

October 3, 2006

I’ve been reading the news this weekend about the three school shootings in the United States, the latest in a one-room Amish schoolhouse in Lancaster, Pennsylvania. A few years back, when I was between lives, I lived not far from the town where all of this horror took place. The black-top roads in our area were often marked with the telling red-mud tracks of an Amish wagon and although I never had the occasion to speak with any of my Amish neighbors, I was aware of them and now and then caught sight of a family or a group of men or women going about. The countryside in that part of the world is soft and rich and smells of cows and fresh mown hay. It was a place I went to restore myself and it worked. It is a place where the Amish and many other religious sects such as the Mennonites and the Shakers settled, searching for spiritual self-determination and a pace of life set back from the main stream. The horror that has shaken these gentle people was probably unimaginable to them; the terrible fact is that it is no longer unimaginable to most of the world. A man walks into a school with a cache of guns, ties up a group of children and murders them. This isn’t the first time something like this has happened, and it will not be the last. Rwanda, Yugoslavia, and Somalia – these are just recent examples of a phenomenon I will never understand, and I have tried. Shortly after the genocide in Rwanda I started reading about murder, about violence among men, about Hitler and Charles Manson and the Black Dahlia and a host of others and the societies in which they flourished. At the end of the day I came to the conclusion that some people are just bad, and given the opportunity (and the weapons) they will act out that latent evil. Unfortunately, there are also a great many otherwise normal folks, who, when placed in the right set of circumstances, are capable of behaving just as abominably as any serial killer - the genocides of the 20th and 21st centuries are proof of that.
Tonight my heart goes out to the mothers and fathers of those innocent children who lost their lives, and to the children who survive, whose dreams have been taken from them forever.