Friday, October 2, 2015

Another Classroom Becomes a Tomb

There's been another mass shooting in America, this one at the Umpqua Community College in Roseburg, Oregon. At this hour there is still much uncertainty about the facts on the ground, much that we don't know. The shooter is dead, along with ten of his victims. Many others are in the hospital.

The President made a statement soon after the news broke. He looked much the same as he did a few years back when he stood in the same spot after the Newtown shootings, heartbroken and powerless. Sadly, it's after these catastrophic visitations of evil when our President is most compelling. The pain on his face, the exasperation of knowing how very little power he has to prevent the next one, strips him and all politicians of their conceit that they control events. What remains is empathy and simple humanity. Obama was never better than he was in his remarks to the nation at the Gabby Gifford funeral. If you've forgotten, Google it, easily the best speech he has ever made, beautiful and inspiring.

There are stories coming out of Roseburg of great courage, of an ex Army man who was shot seven times trying to protect others. There are reports that the killer demanded to know the religion of his victims before administering their sentences; if they answered Christian they were shot in the head, if they answered anything else, they were shot in the leg. Those reports aren't fully confirmed, so probably the less said the better. For me, it matters not what the killer's motivation was. Anyone willing to do something like this is simply a psychopath and unworthy of explanation. If he had instead asked his victims what their favorite color was before executing them, would that have made the act less reprehensible?

There are calls for tougher gun laws, although at this point we don't know how the killer obtained his guns, whether legally or illegally, consequently it isn't known whether tougher gun laws would have made a difference. There are calls for more and better mental health services, although the killer's mental health history isn't known either. There's nothing wrong with calling for either of these things. It's natural for people to appeal to the law for a remedy when such a tragedy happens. It feels better than throwing your hands up in despair.

There will be much prayer in the coming days. There will be vigils and candles, much talk about spiritual things, even more about the Constitution. Presidential candidates will give us their views. Celebrities will chime in with hashtag campaigns. 

My biggest regret is that the killer is dead. I want to see him face the families of his victims. I want the justice system to rigorously pursue his life and influences, to help all of us come to grips with his motivations. Then I want him to spend the rest of his miserable life paying for his cowardice. Yes, vengeance is the Lord's. I just wish he would share it every now and then.

While the rest of us debate and argue, the families of the dead begin the rest of their lives this rainy morning with a hole in their hearts that nothing will ever fill.