In the aftermath of the incredible tragedy that occurred in Newtown, Connecticut, on Friday, I found myself desperately seeking answers. Who did this?…Did he have a troubled childhood?…Was he let into the building?…Did he have a grudge against someone in particular? Some of these questions have been answered, some have yet to be, and others will never be. At the root of it all is one simple question with a complex answer:
I suspect that each of you reading is also trying to determine Why. Seeking the Why is natural, because we believe that if we can figure out Why we can prevent it from happening somewhere else. We think we can protect ourselves. We think we can have control.
But, of course, control is an illusion.
From all reliable news accounts thus far, the staff and first responders in Connecticut did everything right. The school had security procedures in place; in the moment, quick-thinking individuals, like the custodian who ran through the halls yelling warnings and the individual in the office who quietly turned on the PA system, improvised methods of warning the teachers and students; unlike in some previous school violence incidents, the police didn’t hesitate to enter the school; at least one teacher hid her students from the gunman, leaving herself exposed, and died as a result.
What else could have been done?
History tells us that the shooter likely had mental health issues – they always do. And common sense tells us so, as well – how could he coldly murder children as young as five and NOT be in poor mental health? Early news reports indicated he had Asperger’s Syndrome. The rush to compartmentalize this man who did such evil – and, in the process, stigmatize a whole population of individuals who happen to share a syndrome with him – sent a chill through my veins.
People with disabilities (and those with mental health issues) already struggle with being Other. It is difficult enough to be different, because it makes people uncomfortable. How much worse would it be to be a different that makes people fearful? Fear is a powerful motivator, and unfortunately fear sometimes leads to projecting the title of The Enemy onto others. When one is labeled The Enemy, unspeakable horror can follow.
So I’m resisting the urge to find out Why.
Because there will never be a clear, easily digestible answer to Why. Instead, I’m putting my hyperactive, seeking brain to work finding out more about all of the people who stood up to the face of evil and said to it, “You shall not pass.”
There was only one face of evil at Sandy Hook Elementary on Friday, but there were many, many faces of Good. The evil is beyond explanation – there is no satisfactory answer to the Why. The Why of the Good is much easier to understand: “No one has greater love than this, to lay down one’s life for one’s friends.” – John 15:13
The Good was motivated by Love.
It is natural to react with horror and fury. It is natural to seek answers and point fingers. But to honor the victims who died and the heroes – both those who survived and those who did not – we must struggle in the days ahead to follow their example and Love.