The list is long, the names sadly famous: Columbine, Clackamas, Oak Creek, Aurora, and now Sandy Hook. That, of course, is only a small sampling of the places where sad, sick, creepy little monster men have lashed out at the weakest and most vulnerable targets they could find.
A theater full of midnight moviegoers; a shopping mall full of Christmas shoppers; and now, almost unbelievably, a first grade classroom are the kinds of undefended places full of innocent, everyday people which attract the little monster men.
We’re lost in the face of such evil. First of all, there’s usually no-one left to punish after the monster men have done their damage. They almost always finish themselves off right before they’re caught. And even when they don’t commit suicide, there’s nothing left behind those vacant eyes. What can the orange-haired lunatic who shot up the movie theater in Colorado possibly tell us that’s worth knowing?
Humans are problem solvers by instinct. Our greatest achievements have occurred when somebody figured out how to fix something wrong. After each one of those horrific slaughters, most of us don’t need much time to tell anyone within earshot exactly what needs to be done to prevent it from ever happening again. We just know there’s got to be a way to stop it.
The problem is that no matter which one-size-fits-all solution we support, there’s a valid counter argument that proves no single answer really fits. Should we strictly control and prohibit guns, especially semi-automatics? Millions of Americans own all kinds of guns, including semi-automatic handguns, rifles and shotguns, responsibly. Should we edit out all the violence in video games and movies? Again, every day countless Americans happily play and watch the most violent video games and movies imaginable without shooting up the town for real afterwards. And, while no-one is sure of the exact medical or psychological condition of this most recent monster man, there has been mention made of the negative effects of the modern boom in psychological medications. Yet many, many Americans, freed from the most glaring symptoms of mental illness, are able to live normal and productive lives precisely because of such medications.
Along with offering answers to an unanswerable problem, many observers quickly bemoan the fact that something specifically malignant in America’s culture lends itself to making monsters. But even that’s not entirely accurate. One of the worst mass shooting attacks in recent history occurred in 2011 in Norway, where a monster man killed 77 people, most of who were attending a summer youth camp.
And after the commentators are done describing what we could change about each other to make us safer, they start talking about what we could change about our public places to make them more physically secure. But this most recent madman shot out the glass in the door of the Sandy Hook school to make his way through the locked front entrance. Except for turning our schools into armed fortresses, what could be done to prevent that level of assault?
And it’s also easy to kick in with the perfection of 20/20 hindsight and ask why those who knew this newest monster best didn’t intervene beforehand. It’s certainly difficult to believe that a person capable of attacking a helpless elementary school with a rifle on Friday could act normally enough to slip under everyone’s radar on Thursday. But again, how muchbehavior do we see in one trip to the local mall which deserves that same suspicious reaction?
One of the scariest aftereffects of the attacks of the creepy little monster men may be that we’re forced to realize that there aren’t any solutions guaranteed to permanently stop them. But that certainly doesn’t mean we can’t do anything. And we will do something. Human beings, especially Americans, are too smart, too creative and too caring for that. We’ll figure out something that will make a real difference. That’s who we are.
Bill Donovan writes regularly for The Advocate. Feedback is welcome at email@example.com.