As people continue to debate the circumstances surrounding the tragedy that took place in Newtown, Connecticut, I want to take a step back and examine how people are responding to it.
We humans want to live in a world that is safe, tranquil and predictable. So, when a tragedy such as the one in Connecticut takes place, we are appalled in part because our tranquility has been shattered and our sense of security has been disrupted.
Although we grieve for the victims of such a tragedy, we are not emotionally satisfied with just grieving. We want our sense of security to be restored, and often we insist that someone pay a price for the loss that we have experienced.
So, how do we react when the party responsible for the loss is dead?
Well, you can’t punish a dead person. You can’t take your anger out on a dead person. So, who or what do you take your anger out on?
In discussion threads pertaining to the Connecticut shooting, some people are venting their anger by blaming prescription drugs for the actions of Adam Lanza. Yet (at the time of this writing), there is no evidence that Lanza had been using prescription medication. Thus, the complaint about prescription drugs is premature at best.
The assumption of drug use on the part of Adam Lanza is due to a belief that Lanza was mentally ill. It has been reported that Lanza had Asperger’s syndrome, which, according to Dr. Manny Alvarez, is a mild form of autism. However, a person having autism isn’t the same thing as a person having a mental illness that makes the person dangerous to self and others. Thus far, nothing in Lanza’s background indicates that he was a danger to himself or others.
In short, there were no red flags pertaining to Lanza that would have made people think that he was prone to commit an act of violence.
That lack of red flags makes some people feel uneasy. Red flags indicate predictability, and people want to live in a predictable world. A lack of red flags means a lack of predictability, and people can have difficulty coping with a lack of predictability.
Aside from Adam Lanza’s mental health, some people are focusing on Lanza’s ability to get hold of firearms. The reaction of some people is to demand more gun-control legislation, as if more regulation could have prevented Lanza from committing his crime. As it turns out, Lanza used firearms that were owned by his mother, and thus far, there is no evidence that the mother did anything wrong in acquiring the firearms that she had. Also, thus far, nobody has offered evidence that any new gun law would have prevented Lanza from doing what he did.
Then there are the complaints about a perceived lack of security at Sandy Hook Elementary School. As it turns out, Lanza didn’t just waltz into the school and start shooting. Instead, he forced his way passed the security measure that existed at the school.
So, looking at the facts known thus far, it appears to me that plenty of knee-jerk reactions have taken place in response to the Connecticut tragedy.
Human beings are good at responding to known threats. Humans can figure out how to minimize – if not completely eliminate – known threats. The unknown threats are the ones that challenge our coping abilities. If we know about a threat, then we don’t necessarily feel helpless because we believe that a solution to the threat can be discovered.
It is the unknown threat that really scares us. While discussing the Connecticut tragedy, media personality Juan Williams proclaimed that something must be done. But what can be done to prevent an unknown threat, as Adam Lanza was? When interviewed, people who knew Lanza and his mother said the same thing, that nothing about Adam Lanza made them believe that he was capable of an act of violence.
In an attempt to restore the tranquility that was shattered, people will continue to debate the details of Adam Lanza’s life, will (I predict) continue to assign blame to parties that are not to blame for what happened. However, I do not see tranquility being restored until people face up to a harsh piece of reality: Evil happens. As the late psychiatrist M. Scott Peck reveals in his book People of the Lie, evil is as real as the bullets that took the lives of Adam Lanza’s victims. It cannot be diagnosed away or legislated away, and it can defeat the best-laid plans of people.
Am I saying that Adam Lanza himself was evil? No. Am I saying that what he did was evil? Yes. Evil existed long before the invention of firearms and prescription medication, and evil will exist even if those inventions of mankind were to cease to exist. Acknowledging evil’s existence helps me to cope with it whenever it appears, and I certainly do not rely on anything man-made to be the ultimate antidote for evil. Some things are just beyond the capacity of mankind.
For me, restoration of tranquility comes from a source that atheists deny the existence of, the same source that brought tranquility back into my life after my wife died from medical complications pertaining to cancer. Churches in Newtown, Connecticut are now full of people seeking tranquility from the same source.
What source are you seeking tranquility from?