Thursday, December 20, 2012

Learning Continues from Sandy Hook

Did you notice?

Tomorrow will mark the one-week anniversary of the second-deadliest mass shooting in American history.  And aside from commenting on it on last Friday, more out of sadness than anything, I've let everybody else across the World Wide Web do all of the talking about it.

Talking, and blaming, of course; and consoling, and introspecting, and hypothesizing, and advocating.  People have been doing a lot of advocating this week, for everything from gun control, to arming teachers, to better mental healthcare.

And yes, even last Friday, in my abbreviated comments, I pointed out that motor vehicle accidents and drunk driving kill far more people per year than mass shootings, so in a way, I was advocating, too.  Advocating for a moratorium on gun control laws.  It's obvious that public opinion might be as open now as it's ever been for additional laws controlling guns, but isn't that a knee-jerk, emotional response to the tragedy in Newtown?  Plenty of laws already exist on the books controlling access to guns, and none of them worked in this case, because the shooter's mother didn't use common sense when it came to the known emotional problems her son had demonstrated all his life.

Even her divorce documents contain references to the care she would have to provide the disturbed product of her lucrative, temporary marriage to a highly-paid executive at General Electric.  A man I feel no shame in describing as a coward for, first, conveniently dumping his son off on his wife, and then going into hiding with his new wife after news of the shooting ricocheted throughout the media.  Somebody retrieved his son's body from the morgue this past Tuesday, which says that even the killer's own father was in no hurry to do so.

A few bloggers have risen to Peter Lanza's defense, saying we don't know enough about the marriage or his relationship with his two sons to cast aspersions.  And it's true that the hyper-speculation in which we Americans are so premature to engage is short on facts and heavy on circumstantial evidence.  But quite frankly, if there's anybody I'm angry towards in this horrible tale besides the shooter, it's his father.

Biblically speaking, there's little justification in the first place for divorce because of "irreconcilable differences," as was the case with the Lanzas.  Especially when a developmentally-challenged child is involved.  The shooter had been diagnosed with Asperger's, a condition with profound implications for its victim's ability to socialize normally, although direct links between Asperger's and gun violence don't exist.  At any rate, the type of career in which Peter Lanza was excelling - climbing a prestigious corporate ladder - likely left little time for Lanza to substantially invest relationships with his children.  Or his wife, for that matter.

Granted, hindsight always brings a lot of things into focus, but it's no secret that executives earning a reputed half-million a year - and who are able to afford an annual quarter-million-dollar alimony payment - aren't paid to lavish quantity time on their families.  But might quantity time have been what the shooter needed to have lavished on him?  Not just by his mother - who reportedly worried to her friends about how effective a parent she was being - but by his father.  The father he cut off from his life when he married the woman he started dating almost immediately after his divorce was finalized.  The woman with whom he's now in hiding.

Sure, he released a short statement of shock and sympathy, but how much is his seclusion just another calculated stunt to preserve his career?  Fortune 100 companies don't look highly on their staffers whose offspring kill 27 people.  It's up to Lanza to prove that his broken family life - including his son's emotional and mental problems - wasn't a casualty of his career.  Yes, there's another son gainfully employed in the financial industry in New York City, and we know even less about him than we do the father he shared with the shooter.  But at least the brother didn't slink into hiding when he learned what his brother had done.

And yes, at the end of the day, Adam Lanza is ultimately the one responsible for the murders he brutally committed last Friday.  All of the speculation we do, and the contributing factors which may exist, can't erase from the shooter's life and eternity his sole culpability in denying life to 27 people.  Twenty-eight, if you count himself.

At this moment, it bears pointing out that, again from a Biblical perspective, there's no "special place in Hell for people like Adam Lanza."  The sins he committed don't make him any worse in God's eyes than how He sees you and me apart from His grace through Christ.  It's scary to realize how heinous our sins are before our almighty, all-righteous Heavenly Father.  Our speeding down the freeway, our "white" lies, our greediness, our gluttony - they're all on par with the Sandy Hook shooter's sins.  Our society may stratify sins, and categorize Lanza's to a degree far more punitive than speeding, but in God's eternal and holy justice, we're all as guilty as Lanza without the blood of Christ purchasing our salvation for us.

You can't sell newspapers and Internet banner advertising with truth like that, so many people across the world look at the Lanza family with disgust, while maintaining a measure of purity for Adam's victims, and sanctimony for ourselves, since we've never shot-up a school full of kids before.

Of all the lessons we'll have to learn from this atrocity in Connecticut, however, the lesson about sins and consequences will likely be the least popular.  Even less popular than gun control with NRA members!  Although, still, isn't it obvious that all any new gun control legislation would do is help society avoid the issue of sin by creating a false panacea centered on inanimate objects?

Another unpopular lesson will be the impact that absentee dads and broken marriages have on the children of these failed relationships.  And the role our careers play in taking our focus off of our children and spouse.  And, yes, how we address the delicate issue of caring for people amongst us dealing with mental and emotional challenges. 

Before all of that, however, comes tomorrow, the first of what will undoubtedly be numerous anniversaries of Newtown's wholly sad event.

A friend pointed out to me that the media seems to be making an extraordinarily superficial fuss over the fact that this horror took place in such an affluent, manicured, "Currier and Ives" community, as he put it.  As if it would make more sense in the South Bronx, or South Central Los Angeles, where there aren't as many rich white folks living such perfect-looking lives.

Perhaps the easiest lesson for us to learn even before tomorrow should be that maybe the harder people try to cover up and compensate for how perfect their lives aren't, the harder their fall from society's graces can be.

This tragedy may have occurred in a place called Newtown, but its story is that of every tarnished community that's ever existed.  Maybe this one's just particularly shocking not only because it involves painfully young children, but because it hits closer to that for which we all aspire: the good life here on Earth.

Sin is everywhere, and is unavoidable.

It just that oftentimes, it doesn't look nearly as grim.

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