Before the Gate of Hell
The NRA has gone mute: they’ve just cancelled their big NRA Country concert, to have been headlined by the aptly named Colt Ford. Other voices have only grown louder: Rush Limbaugh claims the Liberals are trying to find a way to blame this on conservatives or Republicans.
President Obama stands before us, tears flowing, to tell us we need a Meaningful Response to this tragedy, a moist and meaty sop to his allies who have long been on his case to toughen up Gun Control laws.
Furore and bathos. There will be no meaningful response to Sandy Hook: this is a meaningless tragedy. We are all witness to the only response we shall ever see, the predictable American call-and-response of talking heads and the perpetual dogfight of the Gun Control Debate. It has all been seen before and it will be seen again. Sandy Hook will join the litany of tragedy: Columbine, Stockton, Aurora, Tucson, Seal Beach, Northern Illinois University, University of Texas, Oikos University, Virginia Tech. The list is very long and will get longer. America will no more legislate away this problem than Canute could stop the tides.
The Chinese government is faced with an epidemic of madmen attacking schoolchildren. Anders Breivik strolled through a Norwegian summer camp, dispensing death to 77 and injury to 242 of his fellow citizens. There is no insulating ourselves from such people: to participate in society we become vulnerable of necessity. Metal detectors, police officers in the hallways of our schools, background checks — we have tried everything and the madness continues. If America’s a violent society, it’s not alone.
If we accuse our politicians of being in thrall to the gun lobby, Americans worship their guns. Guns don’t kill people, we are told and this is true. People kill people and we cannot regulate madness out of the human heart. But neither do we have to tolerate our politicians giving lip service to a huge societal problem nor yet should we tolerate the NRA’s overweening control or their insane rhetoric on this subject. The issue before us is an oft-repeated pattern of innocent citizens becoming the targets of gun violence.
Kafka, writing to his friend Oskar Pollak had the only appropriate thing to say under such circumstances:
Verlassen sind wir doch wie verirrte Kinder im Walde. Wenn Du vor mir stehst und mich ansiehst, was weißt Du von den Schmerzen, die in mir sind und was weiß ich von den Deinen. Und wenn ich mich vor Dir niederwerfen würde und weinen und erzählen, was wüßtest Du von mir mehr als von der Hölle, wenn Dir jemand erzählt, sie ist heiß und fürchterlich. Schon darum sollten wir Menschen vor einander so ehrfürchtig, so nachdenklich, so liebend stehn wie vor dem Eingang zur Hölle.
We are like abandoned children lost in the woods. As you stand before me, gazing at me, what could you know of the griefs within me and what could I know of yours? Were I to cast myself down before you, weeping and confessing, how much more would you understand about me than you understand about Hell should someone tell you it is hot and horrible? For that reason alone we humans ought to reverence each other, as insightfully, as lovingly, as we would stand before the Gate of Hell.