Tragedy and Questions

These things just never seem to stop, and it just rattles your sense of security and shakes your faith in humanity.

After all, it wasn’t that long ago that we were mourning those souls lost at Sandy Hook Elementary School at the hands of a deeply disturbed individual. And here again, we’re mourning something horrific in its brutality and the fact that it was widely visible to us.

It’s hard not to look at the pictures and see the videos of the bomb blasts near the finish line of the Boston Marathon. And it’s really hard to not feel helpless, hurt, aghast, afraid, and sad, because while this happened to someone else, you know that it could just as easily happened to you or someone you love at another event. And we all ask the same questions: how did it happen, why, and who did it?

I’m still waiting, though, for someone to finally ask the question and work hard to get an answer that goes beyond the information that’s sitting on the surface: why? Why would someone do this? Why would someone plan and work toward hurting and killing so many people so indiscriminately?

Whether it’s Sandy Hook, or Littleton, or Boston, or even Columbine or even Accent Signage, the most important question is why? Because when our society, or even the world, finally answers that question after events like these, that’s what will ultimately prevent these things from happening in the future.

The problem is that we avoid using the real word for attacks like these: terrorism. All are terrorism, whether they’re committed by a lone gunman wandering through an elementary school, or by several men in a coordinated attack using hijacked planes, they have one goal: to inflict pain and suffering, and to make a statement that will be echoed by the media across the planet.

Whoever planned and executed this attack today was a terrorist. I don’t care what race he is, or what religion he claims to celebrate, the fact remains that he terrorized thousands of people along a race route. He terrorized an entire city who up until 2:50 local time this afternoon thought they were having a great day off. He terrorized a nation that is still talking about the aftermath of a school shooting. And, one hopes, he terrorized an entire planet of sensible, reasonable, caring human beings who believe that senseless killing is completely despicable.

But back to the question: why? Part of the gun control debate going on right now is missing that point. While working to eliminate the weapons and easy access to them would certainly help prevent murders and other terroristic acts, fully understanding the why behind the killing would help us work to prevent more of them. Preventing the kind of pain, misguided thought, hateful intent, and disregard for humanity that we saw today is the only way to achieving a peaceful society and a peaceful world.

Oh, I know. That sounds very hippie and touchy-feely of me. But it’s true. Think about this: If the assumption the world is coming to is correct, then Adam Lanza was a profoundly deeply disturbed young man whose only sense of power came from video game shooting and handling his mother’s gun at a gun range. But why did he decide that he needed to kill his own mother, then go and shoot school-age kids at his former elementary school? He obviously planned his attack. But why did he plan it? What was he trying to do? If we can figure that out, and determine the cause of his actions, then we could prevent this from happening in the future without even needing to worry about gun control.

Stopping someone once they’ve started a rampage is a great idea. But how to stop them from doing it in the future? You don’t threaten, or show your strength over them–that’s what we’ve been trying for over 10 years with Iraq and Afghanistan, and see how far that’s gotten us. What we need to keep in mind that terrorism, whether it’s a school shooting in Colorado or the bombing of a federal building in Oklahoma City, is never a stand-alone event: it’s a reaction to something, to some trigger that set something off in someone’s head. They didn’t like how the country treated their people. Or they were bullied and mocked in school. Or were isolated by a combination of their own actions and society’s indifference.

Tonight, we must mourn the loss, the pain, and the suffering that so many people are feeling tonight. But for the future, we have to ask why someone was driven to do this.

See you tomorrow.