Today I was chatting with a colleague of mine who was adamant that he did not want to write, read or comment on the Sandy Hook shootings. While I have been engrossed in the media frenzy, combing Google articles, watching CNN and FOX and reading blogs, he has flat out refused to become engaged in any of it. He argued that reading about it and immersing ourselves in this tragic news doesn’t do anyone any good at all. He felt that it was exploitative of the media to treat this ongoing tragedy like a circus and was adamant that the more we speak about this sort of negativity, the worse it stains our fragile society. He felt like the actual exposure of this tragedy was just as harmful as the massacre itself.
While I could hear his point, I couldn’t help but feel very differently. While it does seem like for the past two years, every few months there is a devastating tragedy that pushes its way to the forefront, I can’t help but think that it is our obligation as writers and artists to comment on them, whether it adds to the “media frenzy” or not.
Massacres have almost become the norm. Since 1982, there have been at least 62 mass murders carried out with firearms across this country, with killings unfolding in 30 states from Massachusetts to Hawaii. Over a period of 28 years that is a little more than two massacres per year. Just this past week alone, there have been three mass shootings.
This number is absolutely astounding, and yet, incredibly real. How many more massacres will it take for us to understand the full extent of what humanity is facing? While speaking with my friend, it dawned on me: I will never ever tolerate or understand evil. I will never comprehend senseless murder or be able to empathize with a cold-hearted killer. I will never unravel it. And maybe in watching every minute of these details unfold, I am hoping to finally get it. Like an epiphany will be staring me down with an ah-ha moment that will finally reveal to me how and why bad things happen to good people. It almost seems as if evil has begun to have a mind of its own.
In certain instances where evil exists, there is at least an explanation, a stand, a particular reason, albeit often a demented sometimes even an irrational reason, but there is some form of rationalization. Whether it is a ploy for power, or land or religious extremism, killers typically have a laundry list of reasoning behind their crimes. But lately, it seems evil has taken a life of its own. You don’t need a cause, a case or even rationality anymore. Now murder has become arbitrary. It has become completely discerning and has refused to even hide behind an excuse.
Evil is naked and bare and we as a society must recognize it, without incident, without excuses, completely disconnected from reflective rational thinking. For the first time we as humans must know in our veins that evil exists beyond a shadow of a doubt and lurks among us and we must be vigilant in fighting it at every moment.
The only reason I have decided to comment on this incident is because I am striving to understand our world we share with others and to develop a true appreciation of how evil’s corruption is eradicated. I want to come to know these answers, like I know the lines in my hands. I want to memorize them in the way I memorize the spelling of my own name. I want to be able to see evil from the inside out so that I can be a part of the effort to combat its presence and finally defeat it. As in that saying, keep your friends close, but your enemies closer. I watch and read and immerse myself in the story of Sandy Hook in the hope to fully figure out a way to comprehend what we are up against. For to ignore evil is to give it space to breathe.
When we as a nation have come together to mourn, to show we are there for those who have lost their children and mothers, to hold their hands and embrace their cries, we are changing the tide of their loved one’s fate by refusing to allow evil to take over. I have watched and read these stories, not because of the sensationalism, but because I feel a sense of belonging with the victims and to their pain. I want to have their beautiful children’s faces etched in my mind every time I meet evil, as a way of asphyxiating this poison from existence. It is their memory we should aim to be consumed with, not that of the perpetrator. Which is why I was so moved when CNN dedicated an entire hour to remembering the victims on the Anderson Cooper show. He was adamant about NOT doing any reporting on the shooter but rather to focus all of his efforts on reporting on the victims and their stories. He cried as he read off each name, and then cried a little more after he announced their ages. Six years old, 7 years old — never in all the years have I watched the news, have I ever seen a journalist break down in tears while reporting on an incident as I had witnessed this past Sunday night.
Before change can occur, we must understand that evil lies among us, and we must be conscious of it. We must become vigilant in combating its existence, so that we can spend our waking hours living more meaningfully, living with consciousness, living to light the world, and affect it through significant conversation and profound shared experience. If we are observing horrors because we are mesmerized by them, then my friend is correct in saying that the more we speak about this sort of negativity, the worse it stains our fragile society. But if we watch to learn from it, to learn how to become empathetic to those who lost loved ones, to learn how to connect deeply with one another, to learn how to remember, to learn how to cherish one another, to learn how to share, we may be able to truly eradicate evil once and for all.