Cleaning out the attic here on a Sunday morning, I stumbled onto a piece that I had started but then set aside. I guess this is one of the immutable lessons that not much changes over time. This was about the Sandy Hook shooting where a boy by the name of Adam Lanza shot and killed 20 six- and seven-year-olds, as well as 6 teachers, and then turned the gun on himself.
For most, this senselessness has faded into the background, overwhelmed by the noise of mass media and daily commuting. For those in Sandy Hook who were directly affected, the tragedy remains.
Onnesha Roychoudhuri offers us this lesson:
There is nothing more seductive than viewing this violence as an isolated incident. It is not. Evil does not visit. It has a permanent residence in every town. I don’t mean this in a strictly religious sense. I’m thinking more of Arendt’s “banality of evil.” The evil here is to treat this as an aberration, to ignore our complicity.
It is unconscionable for us to stop at the abstraction of “why” without an eye to the concrete: Insufficient gun control laws, a healthcare system in which mental health issues consistently get short shrift, an education system that is told to consistently perform better with fewer resources—resources like school counselors and teachers with special needs training.
Cultural critic Slavoj Zizek (echoing Edmund Burke) writes that, sometimes, “doing nothing is the most violent thing to do.”
Perhaps this is the true definition of what separates an adult from a child: Not just the ability, but the responsibility to act—to prevent what is preventable, to refuse the overly simplistic narratives that peg “good” against “evil,” and to peel back the maps that hide the complex truth from view…
The greater issues are still to be addressed…I worry that they’ll be met more with passion than intelligence…
Image © Jeff Kopito