By Greg O’Brien
Newtown, Ct.—That frightful question "why" has reared its horrific head again.
Just days before Christmas, 20 little angels at Sandy Hook Elementary School in Newtown, Conn., were waiting for Santa, then Satan arrived.
The answer perhaps lies far below the classrooms and closets where Sandy Hook students and their courageous teachers huddled in terror, trying to shield themselves, 26 of them in vain, from a semi-automatic, rapid-fire Bushmaster .223 assault rifle and two other handguns, some used at close range inflicting multiple wounds.
Imagine the horror in these young, innocent hearts, as 20-year-old Adam Lanza, a remote, troubled and mentally ill individual, reloaded his weapons of mass destruction, part of the cache his mother, Nancy, a survivalist, had hoarded for a perceived economic collapse. She reportedly was part of the "Prepper" movement (www.prepper.org), disciples for stashing guns and supplies in anticipation of collective social chaos.
With networks across the country and branches in Connecticut, Massachusetts, Rhode Island, New Hampshire, Maine and Vermont, the Prepper movement seeks to provide "links and information to anyone who wants to prepare for and survive the hard times we are facing."
While Nancy Lanza may have prepped for an envisioned economic sundown, she miscalculated the Angel of Darkness. Sure you can call the Newtown tragedy a consequence of deeply seeded mental illness, an abject failure of gun control, the pathetic overreaction of a mother who died at the hands of what she had hoped would protect her, and you would be right on all counts. But that's just touching the surface.
Look below it.
I was in Newtown and surrounding areas the night before the shooting. It was a stunning silent night, a holy night--thousands of glimmering Christmas lights, scores of crèches, and a covering of innocence in this most New England of towns where a childhood friend of mine and his family lives. Everything that night was perfect, just perfect, and yet something was wrong, terribly wrong beneath this pastoral veneer -- "an unconscionable evil," as President Obama would later describe in an emotional address at Newtown High School.
We've seen such unconscionable evil in recent years: on 9/11; at Virginia Tech where 32 senselessly were shot dead; in Aurora, Colo., where 12 were massacred in a movie theater; at Columbine and beyond. Since 1995, there have been 70 incidences of mass student shootings. "We can't tolerate this anymore," said Obama. "No single law...can eliminate evil from the world...but that can't be an excuse for inaction. Surely, we can do better than this."
To that extent, the president has announced a gun-violence task force and has vowed to send to Congress broad proposals in January for tightening gun control laws and curbing violence. It's an affirmative step, but one first needs to grasp the malevolent nature of this war against evil, whether in school shootings, terrorist bombings, a limited nuclear device, or at the hands of chemical or biological warfare. Wholly unhelpful was National Rifle Association executive vice president Wayne LaPierre prescribed fix. “The only way to stop a bad guy with a gun is a good guy with a gun,” he states, proposing an armed guard in every school to curb student shootings, as if schools were akin to airline cockpits.
Clearly, we're not getting it. As Albert Einstein once observed, "Just as darkness is the absence of light, evil is the absence of God."
The finest mental-health programs in the nation, the locking up all guns in America, if you put everyone on double doses of Prozac, it would not defeat evil. There has been evil in this world since Cain killed Abel, and there will be evil in the world until Armageddon. If good people can be filled with goodness, and bad individuals with wickedness, can't those who are malleable in their own weaknesses--whether it be fanaticism, addictions or mental illness--be filled in the void with evil.
Think about it.
Evil is not confronted with legislation, as helpful as it can be at times; it is confronted in the heart. The seasons of Christmas and Hannukah provide motivation to search the heart. Courageous teachers at Sandy Hook Elementary School did so in reassuring their students to "wait for the good guys, they're coming; show me your smile."
Many fear we are powerless against evil, that there is nothing we can do. Yes, we can, and that's a statement to which moderates, Republicans and Democrats can all say amen! Collectively and individually, we can stand against evil -- Protestants, Catholics, Jews, Muslims and others of faith, straight and gay, black and white, Asian and Hispanic, men and women. We can stand firm against those who purvey terrorism, murder, gangs, hate, abuse, violence, discrimination, the entertainment media that makes billions off movies and video games that blur for profit the thinning lines.
It's a start. We can reach to the heavens, however you want to define the Almighty. A single candle can curse the darkness.
We can push back, all of us, then wait for the good guys.
Show me your smile.