Shortly after President Kennedy’s assassination, two Washington journalists ran into each other.
“We’ll never laugh again, “ one said.
“Oh, of course we’ll laugh again," responded the second. “But we’ll never be young again.”
For most of us who live in the First World, life is mostly good. Few of us worry about having a roof over our heads, or enough food to eat, or finding a decent job. And for most of us, no matter how much we complain, our Government really is there to help us.
Yet each of us has a time when we finally become adults- when we discover that while the world we live in is full of joy, there is also pain, and sometimes evil. For some this discovery is individual - a parent or child is suddenly struck by illness or death. For American society, every few years we are reminded of the evil in the world, and know that we will never be young again.
I’m a Christian, but more rational than mystic. Yet I find it unnerving how the Biblical stories of Jesus casting out demons track with what anecdotal knowledge I have of mental illness. Why do schizophrenics hear voices telling them not to take their medication?
Eighteen months ago the Virginia Tech shooter disturbed enough people that he was referred to a hospital. Upon his release, by all accounts he stopped his behavior- he hid inside himself, giving no warning of his madness, until Monday April 16.
What do we do when faced with the evil of a Tim McVeigh or Mohammed Atta, a Charles Whitman or Seung Hui Cho? Curling up in a fetal position on the couch, or finding solace at the bottom of the ice cream carton or the gin bottle, is tempting. Where can you find safety if comfortable suburbia is Columbine, and bucolic rural academia is Blacksburg?
For myself and my family, we try to live in faith, not fear; to go out each day and use our skills and talents in the best way we can; to know that while there is evil in the world, there is also great good.
Some days that is easier to do than others.
A last thought: Tom Mauser, whose 15 year old son Daniel died at Columbine High School, observes in today’s Washington Post:
I think it is important to avoid referring to the killer by name or
ethnicity. He should be simply "the killer." He should be afforded no special
recognition, for he deserves none. Instead, the names of the victims should be
mentioned often, and their loss should never be forgotten. We best honor them by
celebrating their lives, reading about their accomplishments and doing good
things in their name.