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Friday, April 20, 2007

The Principle of Evil

This is another fine article by Peggy Noonan, a woman who is, in my opinion, one of the finest journalists in the United States. Ms. Noonan speaks of our "therapy culture" in the western world, and what this leads to, which is a lack of true concern and a paralysis of action. We are more concerned with "feelings", and "being accepted" than with right or wrong, good or evil, action or inaction. The therapy culture causes people to deflect responsibility and serve only to serve ourselves and our own ego.

What is the solution to this sort of crisis? Nothing but the cross. Until we acknowledge that we are in need of healing, we cannot be healed. Until we acknowledge that we are sinners and in need of forgiveness, we cannot be forgiven. Until we acknowledge that we are in need of a savior, we cannot be saved. Until we acknowledge that man is not a god unto himself, we have no need of the God who has revealed Himself. Pray for the innocent victims of the terrible Virginia Tech massacre. Pray for Cho Seung-hui, who obviously was "infested with evil." Pray for the victim's families and Seung-hui's family, as all have lost a child. And pray for a world that has grown familiar with the principle of evil and sees no need to combat it, but to simply explain why nothing could be done.



God love you!

*************



Cold Standard
Virginia Tech and the heartlessness of our media and therapy culture.
PEGGY NOONAN

Friday, April 20, 2007 12:01 a.m. EDT


I saw an old friend on the Acela on the way to Washington, and he told me of the glum, grim faces at the station he'd left, all the commuters with newspapers in their hands and under their arms. This was the day after Virginia Tech. We talked about what was different this time, in this tragedy. I told him I felt people were stricken because they weren't stricken. When Columbine happened, it was weird and terrible, and now there have been some incidents since, and now it's not weird anymore. And that is what's so terrible. It's the difference between "That doesn't happen!" and "That happens."

Actually I thought of Thoreau. He said he didn't have to read newspapers because if you're familiar with a principle you don't have to be familiar with its numerous applications. If you know lightning hits trees, you don't have to know every time a tree is struck by lightning.
In terms of school shootings, we are now familiar with the principle.

Dennis Miller the other night said something compassionate and sensible on TV. Invited to criticize some famous person's stupid response to a past tragedy, he said he sort of applied a 48 hour grace period after a tragedy and didn't hold anyone to the things they'd said. People get rattled and say things that are extreme.

But more than 48 hours have passed. So: some impressions.

There seems to me a sort of broad national diminution of common sense in our country that we don't notice in the day-to-day but that become obvious after a story like this. Common sense says a person like Cho Seung-hui, who was obviously dangerous and unstable, should have been separated from the college population. Common sense says someone should have stepped in like an adult, like a person in authority, and taken him away. It is only common sense that if a person like Cho leaves a self-aggrandizing, self-celebrating, self-pitying video diary of himself to be played by the mass media, the mass media should not play it and not publicize it, not make it famous. Common sense says that won't help.

And all those big cops, scores of them, hundreds, with the latest, heaviest, most sophisticated gear, all the weapons and helmets and safety vests and belts. It looked like the brute force of the state coming up against uncontrollable human will.

But it also looked muscle bound. And the schools themselves more and more look muscle bound, weighed down with laws and legal assumptions and strange prohibitions.

The school officials I saw, especially the head of the campus psychological services, seemed to me endearing losers. But endearing is too strong. I mean "not obviously and vividly offensive."

The school officials who gave all the highly competent, almost smooth and practiced news conferences seemed to me like white, bearded people who were educated in softness. Cho was "troubled"; he clearly had "issues"; it would have been good if someone had "reached out"; it's too bad America doesn't have better "support services." They don't use direct, clear words, because if they're blunt, they're implicated.

The literally white-bearded academic who was head of the campus counseling center was on Paula Zahn Wednesday night suggesting the utter incompetence of officials to stop a man who had stalked two women, set a fire in his room, written morbid and violent plays and poems, been expelled from one class, and been declared by a judge to be "mentally ill" was due to the lack of a government "safety net." In a news conference, he decried inadequate "funding for mental health services in the United States." Way to take responsibility. Way to show the kids how to dodge.

The anxiety of our politicians that there may be an issue that goes unexploited was almost--almost--comic. They mean to seem sensitive, and yet wind up only stroking their supporters. I believe Rep. Jim Moran was first out of the gate with the charge that what Cho did was President Bush's fault. I believe Sen. Barack Obama was second, equating the literal killing of humans with verbal coarseness. Wednesday there was Sen. Barbara Boxer equating the violence of the shootings with the "global warming challenge" and "today's Supreme Court decision" upholding a ban on partial-birth abortion.

One watches all of this and wonders: Where are the grown-ups?

I wondered about the emptiness of the phrases used by the media and by political figures, and how pro forma and lifeless and cold they are. The formalized language of loss hasn't kept up with the number of tragedies. "A nation mourns." "Our prayers are with you." The latter is both self-complimenting and of dubious believability. Did you really pray? Or is it just a phrase?

And this as opposed to the honest things normal people say: "Oh no." "I am so sorry." "I'm sad." "It's horrible."

With all the therapy in our great therapized nation, with all our devotion to emotions and feelings, one senses we are becoming a colder culture, and a colder country. We purport to be compassionate--we must respect Mr. Cho's privacy rights and personal autonomy--but of course it is cold not to have protected others from him. It is cold not to have protected him from himself.

The last testament Cho sent to NBC seemed more clear evidence of mental illness--posing with his pistols, big tough gangsta gonna take you out. What is it evidence of when NBC News, a great pillar of the mainstream media, runs the videos and pictures on the nightly news? Brian Williams introduced the Cho collection as "what can only be described as a multi-media manifesto." But it can be described in other ways. "The self-serving meanderings of a crazy, self-indulgent narcissist" is one. But if you called it that, you couldn't lead with it. You couldn't rationalize the decision.

Such pictures are inspiring to the unstable. The minute you saw them, you probably thought what I did: We'll be seeing more of that.

The most common-sensical thing I heard said came Thursday morning, in a hospital interview with a student who'd been shot and was recovering. Garrett Evans said of the man who'd shot him, "An evil spirit was going through that boy, I could feel it." It was one of the few things I heard the past few days that sounded completely true. Whatever else Cho was, he was also a walking infestation of evil. Too bad nobody stopped him. Too bad nobody moved.

Ms. Noonan is a contributing editor of The Wall Street Journal and author of "John Paul the Great: Remembering a Spiritual Father" (Penguin, 2005), which you can order from the OpinionJournal bookstore. Her column appears Fridays on OpinionJournal.com.

1 comment:

Adoro te Devote said...

Nice to see you're back, Father V.!

I love this article; it says so much.

And I agree with it. Through my careers involving a lot of exposure to violent acts, I myself have become desensitized, and that disturbes me to my very core. I am actually a very emotional person, but it's like a switch was hit somewhere during my training indicating that when something truly horrible happens, I am supposed to have an alternative response - one of cold detachment. It's very weird and very contrary to my nature. I can't seem to cry over VT, although I want to, and I am sincerely grieved. I can cry easily over everything else, though.

And the mental health system is the most dysfunctional system on the planet, outside of the ACLU and their lackeys, the Supreme Court.

My Mom is bipolar, and she was off her rocker during my Jr. High and High School years, finally had to attempt suicide before they could address the issue. My first official act as an adult (had just turned 18) was to sign the 72 hour hold order as her "Guardian."

I was 18, and the doctor from the crisis ward was calling me to discuss Mom's treatment and options because she was not in a legal or mental position to speak for herself. We began to discuss formal committment. hank God we were discussing her future as opposed to funeral arrangements.

It never should have gone so far, and what happened at VT should never have even gotten to the point that the idea could have been concieved.

This article points out so many important issues in so few words, and the biggest one is that underlying indifference we are all beginning to experience as the violence escalates around us. We must be tolerant of others. We must accept their opinions as just as valid as our own, even if their opinion is that they can take fully automatic weapons into a school and blast away happily. We can sit and discuss the lack of rationality, but God forbid that anyone do anything to actually PREVENT the violence from happening, for that would be an infringement upon that individual's right to see the world as he prefers...etc.

I just thank God that my Mom was like most of those who are mentally ill and turned her actions inward...because her life would be much different if her focus was outward. Would I be here talking to you now? Likely not. Whenever she turned outward, it was usually to demonize my brother and I...we would have been the first to go.

Most mentally ill people are not dangerous to others and the primary concern was to themselves. Not so at VT...and how many others are out there who need to be separated from the public?

(My Mom is doing very well now, by the way, lives on her own, is on medication, and it's been years and years since she's been hospitalized. Please pray for her..that woman is my St. Monica and she doesn't even know it. Through it all she's held very tightly to Our Lady's hand.)

Sorry for the long, novel-like comment.