By Greg O’Brien
Boston Metro, New York Metro, Philadelphia Metro
Unimaginable horror, and yet the random, horrific violence that washed up Monday on the Virginia Tech campus—the worst shooting spree in U.S. history—is far more matter of fact to us today than it ought to be. As numbing as Internet video clips and breaking news reports were of the slaughter, there was a chilling, nauseating sense of a persistent nightmare played out in real time. And in the deepest recess of our souls, a place where no light enters, we expect the agony to be played out again.
Where, when and how is part of the national angst that haunt us as a society.
There will be more cries for gun control and equal pushback from the gun lobby. One of President Bush’s first comments, in misplaced reaction to the tragedy, touched on the subject, as if the National Rifle Association had issued an all-points bulletin on the massacre. “The president believes that there is a right for people to bear arms, but that all laws must be followed,” White House deputy press secretary Dana Perino said in an early Associate Press report. Perino noted that Bush and Education Secretary Margaret Spellings had held a conference on school gun violence last October, noting, “Certainly, bringing a gun into a school dormitory and shooting…is against the law and something someone should be held accountable for.”
The aftermath of Virginia Tech ought not to be wholly dominated by a national debate on gun control, but should focus on the forbidding reality of evil in the world. We’ve seen it up close and personal at Columbine, on 9/11, in Pennsylvania’s placid Amish country, in other blameless places and now here in Blacksburg, Va.
“Keep yourself from every evil thing,” the Old Testament warns in the Book of Deuteronomy in words that have eluded us.
We are a world awash in evil—any way you want to describe it and on any spiritual terms. Gun control laws, however appropriate in places, are not going to change everything, nor will stiffer jail terms for violent crimes, as needed as they are. We must find ways collectively as a society of turning from the darkness of life and face the light head-on—an all-consuming embrace for what is right in life. This means a change in direction for all of us.
Without such an about-face, we can expect more Columbines, more 9/11s and more campus shootings as we head down a dead-end in an abyss of evil that awaits us with even more shock.