CHARLES A. DONOVAN When an act of enormity beyond all description occurs, we seek answers both to make things better and to make ourselves feel better. Distinguishing between the two is hard. David Kopel in the Wall Street Journal makes a series of informed suggestions about what would improve our chances of reducing incidents of random violence like that which was visited on Newtown. Reform of our laws regarding mental illness, with recognition that today’s panoply of medications are not a panacea for every afflicted person, is likely to be the most difficult area to pursue, and for that reason alone is the avenue that deserves the most attention. It will have to be a serious effort and not a gesture. There is also a chance this particular pursuit can be heartfelt and nonpartisan, an occasion for deliberation, not for finger pointing and street marches to NRA headquarters.
Our times offer another opportunity that is not the work of legislation at all. The coarsening of culture has been proceeding for decades, and now in High-Def and 3D as well. I remember sitting in a theater watching Stanley Kubrick’s A Clockwork Orange. In an earlier age of cinema men were shot off horses and tumbled to the ground dead with scarcely a trickle of blood. In Kubrick the violence was realistic, minutely detailed, and terrifying. But what was more terrifying was the audience’s cheers at the crimes of Alex de Large, the film’s monstrous anti-hero. This was in 1971. The slippery slope is steep and longer than we knew.
Laws cannot work where our fallenness has so much fuel, where violence is, per se, a pastime, where solving problems with the shedding of innocent blood is so routine. Lincoln fell to his knees because, he said, he had nowhere else to go. Neither do we.
DAVID FRENCH Confronted with tragedy, the human mind immediately and desperately seeks comfort and understanding. We want to know the how and the why. In a way, our legislative and cultural fights are a type of coping mechanism: If we can just tweak the law or change the video games, then we can not only avoid future horrors, we can imbue our actions with a sense of mission in the aftermath of death.
But we can’t deceive ourselves that legislation or any other policy reform can redeem a fallen world. Mankind, by its very nature, is fallen — broken and sinful — and broken men will cause immense suffering. That is not a comforting thought, but it is real; it is true.
Thousands of years ago, a man named Job faced the horrible, violent death of his children. He begged God for reasons for his calamity. He pled his case at great length and with great eloquence. Yet when God finally answered, the response was not what Job hoped. The God of the universe answered Job by essentially declaring that He was God, and Job was not. So Job literally placed his hand over his mouth and trusted in the God who he could not fully understand.
Our lives are full of the inexplicable — virtuous men die at evil hands, good men fail while bad men succeed, and justice is forever elusive — but like Job, we must trust our Creator, the God who gave us life and loved us enough to send a Savior. When all words fail, we trust, we pray, and we rely on a promise:
“Blessed are those who mourn; for they shall be comforted.”
May God fulfill that promise for the victims and families of Sandy Hook Elementary School.
— David French is senior counsel and director of digital advocacy at the American Center for Law and Justice.