My eye caught the television screen mounted in the corner of the office and I thought “hey, isn’t that my high school?” This weekend’s massacre in Aurora, a community just east of where I live, brought a decade old memory to the surface. I remember staring in disbelief and horror as cameras recorded the Columbine tragedy and I stood helpless some 2,000 miles away. I cried for the victims and prayed for the wounded; it was all I could do.
Later I arranged to have my family’s neighbor’s son come testify before a Congressional Committee. As a Hill staffer, I could see to it that a real victim of the tragedy was part of the conversation. Already some politicians were thinking of how to use the circumstances for their own agendas. Apparently they didn’t want to let a serious crisis go to waste. Congressional leaders needed to hear the truth—this wasn’t about bullying, school policies, the lack of prayer in school, or gun laws; it was about the choice of two evil young men to kill their classmates.
It is only human to search for answers in times like these, but there’s a line between the honest search for answers and the use of tragedy to forward a predetermined agenda. ABC News’ Stephanopoulos and Ross crossed that line when they insinuated that a Tea Party activist might be behind the carnage. Some gun control advocates are considering how they can use recent events. These agendas, like the insensitive platitudes some people trot out in the face of others’ misfortune, should be rejected. They are not answers.
How then do we react to evil? We can prepare for it. Unfortunately, we can only do so much. Decent people can never conceive what evil people plan in the darkness of their minds. Cinemas will likely post cameras at their exits just as schools have improved their security systems since Columbine. We are safer for these measures, but twisted schemes find their way around the best precautions. It’s only a matter of time.
We can fight evil. Young men courageously died shielding their girlfriends from bullets. Friends carried friends from harm’s way. Police officers risked their lives to apprehend the killer. The courage to save others from evil, which roused these brave individuals to act, is too often missing. How long was that vile child rapist Sandusky allowed to torment his victims while others looked away? Evil is often abetted by venality, selfishness and cowardice. At times like this, leaders encourage soul searching. Most people will never have to take a bullet for a friend, but they can thwart evil in other ways, if they have the courage.
We can heal what evil has wrought. Evil is not something in and of itself, it is the absence of something. Just as darkness is the absence of light and cold is the absence of heat, evil is the absence of good. Evil people rend the fabric of life. At times, good people tear at it, too. The saying that the best way to combat evil is to do good is no platitude. Those who are visiting the wounded, donating blood, giving contributions and praying for the bereaved and wounded are doing just that.
I wish that by being prepared we would always outwit evil. I wish that by fighting we would always win. We must try though it will not always be so. In the end, the only way to fight that overwhelming sense of helplessness is to do good and do our best to mend what is broken.