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I suppose it’s nothing new. This was hardly the first time. Sadly, it likely wasn’t the last. Another bad apple rose to the top of the barrel and made himself heard. The shots fired in Arizona were certainly heard around the world. You almost have to conclude that was the goal. To be heard. Whatever the cost. However incoherent the message, he would be heard.

Tragedies like this, violence like this, nearly stop time for those directly involved. They are doomed to re-live the horror, second by second, for the rest of their lives. The noise, the chaos, the mortal fear, all unlike anything they had seen before. It will remain in their mind, and probably their dreams for the rest of their days. The seeds of terror, planted by a madman, lying dormant in their minds until a moment of darkness, a sudden sound, or just a moment of nothing causes them to germinate into a private, internal rerun of the nightmare.

No less is the tragedy for those who are friends and family of the victims. They didn’t hear the gunshots, but they see the wounds and the wounded. Some will carry their loved ones into their last services. All will live with the aftermath. While we just see another news story, it is part of their lives. Forever.

Equally predictable is the immediate finger-pointing that follows such dark displays of human deviancy. Self-serving efforts to advance an agenda or strengthen a political position on the heels of a tragedy are illuminating examples of how low we can go. It illustrates the myopic lack of empathy too often found in this era, where your side of the argument is all right, and the other guy’s side is all wrong. We always think lessons will be learned, but I’m less than optimistic. Age and cynicism seem to advance at about the same rate.

Trying to make sense of it is the hard part, probably because it simply doesn’t make any sense. However good or bad this guy’s upbringing was, we can be certain that his parents never foresaw or intended the results to be as they were. History is full of the stories these individuals write, as far back as you want to look. Manson, Dahmer, Oswald, the list goes on. Maybe the key word to hear is “individuals”, since they usually seem to be quite alone in their own madness. Alone, disregarded, often unnoticed, and impotent, right up until their final act. Then, they get noticed.

There must be some kind of characteristic detachment from the brotherhood of their fellow man that would allow someone to be so devoid of empathy. And I wonder if that tendency is more common in the youth of this era. How else can one rationalize such actions? We might be able to pinpoint a misguided passion that would cause one to destroy or silence a certain leader or proponent of some idea, but it remains a quantum and unfathomable leap to continue shooting, with deadly randomness, anyone else who just happened to be there. That seems to be where passion simply gives way to madness.

For the rest of their days, those involved will grapple with the random components of the tragedy. “What if?” “If only I….”. There are no answers to any of those questions. There just aren’t. Though I don’t know any who would claim the title, I’d like to think any philosopher would counsel us to direct our efforts toward tomorrow, rather than yesterday. It’s the only effective strategy. As I ponder a thoughtful way to end this note, a phrase from an old song keeps coming back to the surface;

“ Teach your children well….”


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