The slaughter of the holy innocents

It has happened again.  The horror burst upon us all like a thief in the night;  like it must have felt to parents 2,000 years ago when Herod decreed that all male babies must die to put to death the threat of a supposed rival king.  On Friday, in the blink of an eye,  20 children and 7 adults were mowed down by one man.  A 20 year old man with demons and a level of  inner confusion that we cannot imagine  used a wmd (that is right, a weapon of mass destruction) to rob families of their beautiful and so very young children.  Sadly, as President Obama said, we have visited this horror far too often.  But as we all know in our fast paced world, soon the media will depart Newtown and the world will move on.  We all will carry the sadness and confusion for some time; but this too will pass until the next horrific incident.  Lets hope it is not soon.  May the copycat syndrome be mercifully avoided so that this supposed time of  ”peace on earth, goodwill to….”  be at least partially experienced by us all.  It is going to be hard to avoid a very raw Christmas this year.  We have all been diminished by one man with a troubled heart and unlimited firepower.

What happened  is too much to fathom and thank God that the defense mechanism we are blessed with to shut out what we cannot carry within will kick in.  Some things are too horrible to remember.   It is an amazing thing that we, out of self preservation can, and do,  forget that which is too painful to remember.  But we must admit, it is only partially a good thing that we can erect walls to separate us from that which is too horrible to remember.    It was not that many years ago in history that  something far more horrific (at least in terms of sheer numbers) took place.   If, as the governor of Connecticut said, “evil visited them on Friday”, how much more did evil of an unprecedented magnitude visit the Jews in Europe not that long ago.

I have just started to read a book that was recommended by a friend.  The title is “The Holocaust by Bullets: a Priest’s Journey to Uncover the Truth”.  It is written by Fr. Patrick Desbois, a French Roman Catholic priest.  It tells the story of the indiscriminate slaughter of Jews in Eastern Europe during the holocaust.  Like Newtown, it is also unfathomable; but by its systemic nature, way more so.  The holocaust  mass murders were sanctioned and carried out  by governments.  Six million Jews died just for being Jews.  They were marched out to ditches dug as  mass graves, stripped of their clothing, and shot.  Women and children were simply slaughtered.  There is nothing in all of history that compares to the shame of this.  In Newtown, it was a crazed man.  With the holocaust the atrocity  was sanctioned by governments.  Shame on humanity.  But on any scale, when Evil is combined with Firepower, it  is a lethal recipe and innocent people die.

There will be much discussion about gun control for a few weeks.  The President called for action.   But the paradox about this issue is the more times such acts of atrocity occur, the more gun advocates claim with some validity, “if only we all had guns, we could be able to act in such instances and minimize it”.  I heard a man on the radio driving into work this morning say that schools need to have guns and a team of teachers need to be trained to use them so that a madman cannot accomplish what this man accomplished.  I understand the logic, but I disagree.  We need to get rid of all guns, especially assault weapons.  Sorry hunters take up fishing!

When I tell people I travel to Haiti they sometimes say, “aren’t you afraid?”.  Well friends, Haiti is very low on the recognized list of violent countries.  You should all go there and experience the warmth of the people.  Of course in Haiti, as with all countries,  you do have to be careful where you go.  There are places that are dangerous especially at night.  But none of them are schools where 5 and 6 year old children are mowed down by a madman with the firepower to do so because we as a culture cannot say no to individual freedoms and the right to bear arms.  Perhaps it is time in America to put the good of the whole and society above the individual rights to commit this kind of carnage.   But we don’t and won’t have the will to do so.    How tragic and sad because history has another” slaughter of the holy innocents” brewing in the demented mind of some  lost soul.  May God be with those who are next.

The Rev. Canon James E. Byrum

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