TCS Daily

Va. Tech Massacre: A Hellishly Bent Soul

By Ralph Kinney Bennett - April 17, 2007 12:00 AM

Evil is unspectacular and always human and shares our bed and eats at our own table.

-- W. H. Auden

We are now enduring the endless outpouring of words from those trying to "come to grips" with what happened at Virginia Tech.

(I found myself about to type the word "tragedy" to describe what happened, but we have succeeded in rendering that word so lame and so far from its original meaning that even its generally accepted sense of "any dramatic, disastrous event, especially one of some moral significance," is imprecise and not really useful here.)

We tote up the figures. We compare this slaughter with Whitman at the Texas tower, or that guy at Luby's Cafeteria, or the boys at Columbine. All the dumbed-down and numbed-down words are poured forth, column after column - slaughter, massacre, grim, terrorized, etc.

We still seem transfixed by old technology. We endlessly gabble about "automatic weapons" and the speed with which they can kill. We are reminded that a "hand gun" can be easily concealed - in a backpack or a winter jacket.

Well, yes, this Korean emigre could not have killed so many people so quickly if he were firing and loading a musket - or for that fact, wielding a baseball bat or a machete. But the power to kill, to slaughter more efficiently and at a distance has been in man's hands for centuries.

And yet we continue to wallow in the world of if only. If only it were not so easy to get a hand gun. If only those hapless campus police had locked down the school. If only there weren't all those video games where you can mindlessly shoot people at the push of a button.

If only it weren't so easy to kill.

Bronze made it easier. The broadsword made it easier. The crossbow. The musket ball, the bullet. The revolver, the Winchester, the Gatling, the Maxim, the Browning. Brass and powder and lead, packaged and propelled so rapidly by physics and man's inventiveness.

But whether the tool is a rock or a 9mm. pistol, the "easier" part comes from a man's heart.

Technology will always make it ever easier to live and die. And its "proper control" will continue to be the first refuge of those who find it difficult to believe, let alone deal with, the truth of an evil or demented mind, a dark heart, a hellishly bent soul and its capacity to surprise, horrify and confound us.


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