Reflections on an unspeakable act
The end of 2012 is drawing near. This is the last Saturday before Christmas and people are running about trying to finish off their last-minute shopping and finalize their decorating efforts.
I'm figuring Stavanger Drive is mighty busy this weekend.
As for me, Paul isn't venturing within a mile of a shopping mall today and my decorating is done. I'm hiding out in the woods, drinking strong green tea in my cabin and poking around the snow-laden spruce for hiding hares.
Things are pretty quiet in here, miles away from the hustle, bustle and honking traffic. I like peace and tranquility sometimes. As a matter of fact, I absolutely crave it, at least once a week. Saturday in the woods is the medicinal fix that gets me through life's challenges and daily grind; it's what keeps me sane in an often crazy world.
Take, for instance, the insane and mind-boggling event that was all over the news last weekend. A 20-year-old man, a boy really, not unlike the kids I teach at college, forced his way into an elementary school and killed 26 fellow human beings. Twenty of them were sweet little children of just six or seven tender years.
That was something out of this world to ponder while puffing my pipe, seated on the hand-hewn timber deck of my hunting cabin, gazing out over trees and ponds. The sweet aroma of Virginia tobacco hung in the air and fluffy flakes of snow fell to the damp pungent earth. What a contrast in mood to the harsh reality parents in Connecticut must be feeling.
I've never lost a child - hope I never will; hope I'm gone first, the way it should be. The anguish and pain must be the heaviest of crosses that any of us will ever bear. But to have your flesh and blood taken from you in such a senseless and grotesquely violent manner is devastating; I can't in my darkest thoughts even imagine the pain.
Why did he do it? I thought about it all day. I went to bed Saturday night stressing my brain for reasons. There was no logic or psychology that made any sense as to what could drive a human being to such depths of evil.
The gun-control lobbyists were already calling on government to do something. Ban this rifle, restrict this gun, and abolish this or that barrel length. I own a bunch of guns. I have no desire to kill people with them. I can't even let my mind wonder what it was like inside that school. I think the media is telling us too much about the details, stuff we don't need to know. We will have nightmares.
I have friends who collect guns. One guy in particular has a huge collection of British service rifles; another buddy of mine has a M1 Garand, a Russian SKS and a Colt AR15. Neither of them would hurt a fly; actually they don't even hunt. I'd trust either of them to babysit Rory, my 10-month-old grandchild.
Just because someone likes collecting guns, or shooting guns, in no way makes them killers. That is not the answer. I still think our government did the right thing in abolishing the long gun registry.
I awoke Sunday morning and checked my email. A friend had sent me a couple of paragraphs attributed to the brilliant actor Morgan Freeman. He was Ned Logan in the movie "Unforgiven" with Clint Eastwood, one of the best westerns ever. Do we watch too many shoot-'em-up movies and glorify gunfights? I grew up watching war and western movies - John Wayne, Audie Murphy, Jimmie Stewart and Randolph Scott.
My favourite gunslinger of all was Yosemite Sam. I'm sure you must remember him, the roughinest, toughinest, rootinest, tootinest, bobtailed wildcat north, south, east or west of the Pecos. Bugs Bunny didn't bat an ear.
We can all tell fiction from reality. Likewise, with today's video games, kids know the difference between fact and fancy. Shooting down zombies on the screen is not killing real live people with real live bullets.
Anyway, it turns out it wasn't the real Morgan Freeman who wrote the message. But it made sense, nonetheless, given that it's not easy to explain why a quiet kid of 20, who was an honours student in high school, gets out of bed one morning and kills 27 people, including his own mother.
The imposter's basic argument is that the media is encouraging serial killings and mass murders by sensationalizing. He says that killers like the Batman Theatre Shooter and the Oregon Mall Shooter are made celebrities by extensive media coverage. Their names will go down in history.
We will all remember them, just like Charles Manson and Al Capone. Like it or not, we don't forget the bad guys.
The text is a bit crass, but our Fake Freeman pulls no punches: "Disturbed people who would otherwise off themselves in their basements, see the news and want to top it by doing something worse, and going out in a memorable way."
So you can figure out the rest of the argument easily enough.
Adam Lanza, a thin and mild-mannered kid from Newtown, a small and peaceful Connecticut town, is deeply troubled, and in desperate need of psychiatric intervention. He wants to be remembered and decides to go down in a blaze of sickening glory.
He knows his name will be all over the news for weeks. He gets his hands on some guns and goes on the most disturbing killing spree imaginable.
Could it be that simple? I have no idea. It makes as much sense as anything I can think of.
The posting ends with, "you can help by donating to mental health research instead of pointing to gun control as the problem." Obviously this message has an agenda, although I believe there is certainly some degree of truth in it.
No doubt there will be a backlash of anti-gun sentiment from this terrible tragedy. Oddly enough, there is a tangible connection between evil, unspeakable deeds and walking though the November woods with a lever action carbine. The same gun has harvested deer and shot innocent people.
But can you blame the hammer for a terribly built cabin? There is something deeply wrong in our society that is causing a few individuals to lash out in unprecedented violence.
I wish I knew the answer, but I can only look out over the water and wonder. I can only feel for parents, sisters and brothers while I take a hike in the woods. Take time to pray for broken hearts while you celebrate your Christmas.
I'll write about something happier next week.
Paul Smith, a native of Spaniard's Bay, fishes and wanders the outdoors at every opportunity. He can be contacted at firstname.lastname@example.org.