By Paul J Cella Posted in Breaking News — Comments (9) / Email this page » / Leave a comment »
When a man contrives to systematically slaughter unarmed strangers, and then remove himself from the reach of our human approximations of justice by suicide, the word “tragedy” is singularly inappropriate. The misapplication of it, which we hear inevitably, lessens the depravity of the act by replacing wickedness as its impetus with a kind of unthinkable randomness, like the whims of natural calamity.
As our language has gradually been evacuated of the sort of idiom by which serious men have approached good and evil in ages past, it is hardly surprising that we would reach for these pitiful substitutes, of which tragedy is the most common. It is a poverty of sophistication.
Another substitute, yet more pitiful still, is the idiom of mental illness. A “disturbed” young man conspires to massacre; a “troubled” student fell upon his fellows, reloading a weapon half a dozen times and chaining the doors to prevent escape for his victims — the shallowness of this narrative is staggering. Really what it amounts to is obscurantism.
I hesitate to venture as to what it may obscure, but I have often wondered how the detachment of history will judge us. Our “scientific” detachment has hardly been tender with earlier ages of men, and nary has a great man, however virtuous, escaped the acid of debunking. We late moderns, in many ways a very self-congratulatory people, have made a tradition of school-shootings; and at the same time we have grown extraordinarily enamored of what we call “progress.” How historians will treat of this former, terrible fact, especially in light of this latter enthusiasm, is difficult to say; but I do not guess that it will be with much tenderness.
Some men will blame the weapons used in these massacres, quite as if the evil of slavery could be laid at the feet of the manufacturers of chains. More thoughtful men will look deeper, and it is very likely they will find that the poverty of our language is indeed obscuring a more profound rottenness: a wickedness that is no mere tragedy.