I mis-reported something in my previous post. I said Adam Lanza did this with a pair of pistols. At that time, that was the report I had, from early news items that did not mention the assault rifle. But he used one after all, so a correction is in order. I also said 26 people had been killed, but that was students and teachers and did not include Lanza’s mother, who he killed at home and was apparently the first victim, nor Lanza himself.
I said “we are a people enamored with violence” and yes, I meant Americans, but obviously that is no real distinction, and the bizarreness of such incidents is hardly confined to us. This report from China is about a similar tragedy. (This man used a knife, and while some folks are making a point of the fact that none died as opposed to the Newtown event, I think that misses the central fact. The report goes on to detail that this attack was only the latest in a growing number of similar assaults.) Here is another detailing a slaughter in the wake of something we may sometimes characterize as a “western” trigger. Then of course we have become so inured to stories of honor killings and the massacres of terrorists, it may be that we simply discount them and are willing only to focus on our own tragedies as if we should somehow be immune to this sort of thing.
But there are two things I want to add to what I wrote yesterday that I suggest feed this kind of inexplicable event.
The Westboro Baptist Church plans to try to picket the funerals of the children in Connecticut. Why? Why else? Homosexuality.
But we are beginning nationally to discount them as nutjobs, obsessed with their own religious celebrity.
However, Mike Huckabee has weighed in, telling us that the shootings occurred because “we have systematically removed God from the schools.”*
When I talked about the kinds of stories we tell ourselves, this is an example. Most people are going to shrug this off, the overblown posturings of a disappointed presidential candidate with a viewpoint sharply athwart mainstream. But I think that also misses a crucial point.
I said we like very much to find reasons, to explain things, and in the face of the inexplicable we tend to grasp at anything that seems to offer a reason. We are reluctant, it seems, to simply say “I don’t know, it was one of those things” and then keep looking for meaningful answers. Meanwhile, these kinds of explanations hang around, suffuse the zeitgeist, drift about until sympathetic minds adopt them.
Theology 101: if, as we find in many strains of christian thought, “god” is by definition “within each of us”—because we are his creations and, presumably, he loves us—then any one or number of us who go into a place bring him with us. Furthermore, children are by christian operating principles “innocent” and certainly the special ones of Jesus’ attention. Which means that god is inextricably linked to gatherings of children and a school is chock full of god.
Obviously, this isn’t what Huckabee and his ilk are talking about. They mean we refuse to put up a crucifix in the classroom and hold organized prayers every day. They aren’t interested in the nous and spirit of their propositions, only in the propaganda opportunities missed by means of the separation clause. They don’t trust individuals to carry god with them wherever they go, they want public demonstrations and regular indoctrination seminars.
And because we won’t do that, they suggest that god is letting slaughter happen. God, in other words, is holding hostages and killing them (he’s all powerful, right?) when he doesn’t get his way.
Back in the aftermath of Katrina, Pat Robertson was spewing a line that New Orleans had been inundated because we have shoved god out of our lives. This in one of the most religious per capita nations in the Western Hemisphere. “God doesn’t go where he’s not invited.” He should have done a survey of the number of neighborhood churches there were (and are) in New Orleans. It was a cruel, unworthy sentiment that was also based on the idea that his god punishes people because others ignore him—and then doesn’t tell anyone that this is the reason the tragedy happened.
Oh, Scripture? You mean Sodom and Gomorrah and the search for the righteous? Lot, who was so righteous he intended handing over his daughters to a mob of horny debauchers rather than risk pissing off his god by letting his messengers be diddled? Lot, who then later got drunk in a cave and fucked those same daughters, at their contrivance (of course, because it’s always the women at fault) because they thought the whole world had been destroyed and it was time to act like Noah’s kids and repopulate? That story? Very uplifting. (I got in trouble in grade school over that one for (a) bringing up the cave and (b) wondering how come if god could send angels to Sodom to warn Lot’s family he couldn’t have sent the same pair to the cave to tell them the world was okay.)**
You’ll forgive me if I find that kind of reasoning specious and insulting.
Obviously, it doesn’t matter to these people what may actually be going on in the hearts and minds of others, only what we appear to have going on.
So in the wake of a tragedy that, in any meaningful way is the equivalent of an earthquake or a tornado, we see certain folks adding to it by twisting the circumstances into an opportunity for theocratic propaganda.
Which, intentionally or not, feeds the paranoia of certain folks by reinforcing the kind of final solution thinking they may already be indulging and which may from time to time lead to more tragedy.
We have better stories than this. We need to be telling them. Often. Loudly.
Oh, and Huckabee’s position on firearms?
“My position on the Second Amendment to the Constitution is as clear for me as the position held by most journalists toward the 1st Amendment. While I do not consider myself a “gun nut,” I proudly own a variety of firearms and enjoy hunting as well as sports shooting. But even if I were not a hunter or did not enjoy shooting, I would still be a firm believer in the 2nd Amendment right of Americans to own firearms for self-protection and as a matter of principle.”
But of course, using the same twists of logic he used about Newtown, we have no right to be safe from his god. Not even children. (Yes, I am making a point by making an extreme case.)
We can do better than this.
* Does it need pointing out that what did the killing did not come from within the school? That, metaphorically, evil broke in? Yeah, well, maybe it does…
** Yes, I state it crudely—it is a crude story and deserves no better.