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The sadness seemed to seep out of the stones

Among the many newspaper reports from Connecticut on the massacre of children in Sandy Hook is one in the Times by David Taylor, remembering an earlier crime:

Sixteen years ago I witnessed the same phenomenon in Dunblane where another school lost a group of children. The sadness seemed to seep out of the stones of the Scottish town after Thomas Hamilton opened fire.

From what abyss does such a crime come? I was searching on the internet for the words of the 130th Psalm, De profundis clamo ad te, domine – Out of the depths I cry unto thee, O Lord – and found the letter written from prison by Oscar Wilde which was later given the title De Profundis by his literary executor. I have not yet read it all but the opening words resonated for me because of the contrast between the depths of grief (Wilde describes hearing the news of his mother’s death while in prison) and a happy season:

. . . Suffering is one very long moment. We cannot divide it by seasons. We can only record its moods, and chronicle their return. With us time itself does not progress. It revolves. It seems to circle round one centre of pain. The paralysing immobility of a life every circumstance of which is regulated after an unchangeable pattern, so that we eat and drink and lie down and pray, or kneel at least for prayer, according to the inflexible laws of an iron formula: this immobile quality, that makes each dreadful day in the very minutest detail like its brother, seems to communicate itself to those external forces the very essence of whose existence is ceaseless change. Of seed-time or harvest, of the reapers bending over the corn, or the grape gatherers threading through the vines, of the grass in the orchard made white with broken blossoms or strewn with fallen fruit: of these we know nothing and can know nothing.

For us there is only one season, the season of sorrow. The very sun and moon seem taken from us. Outside, the day may be blue and gold, but the light that creeps down through the thickly-muffled glass of the small iron-barred window beneath which one sits is grey and niggard. It is always twilight in one’s cell, as it is always twilight in one’s heart. And in the sphere of thought, no less than in the sphere of time, motion is no more.

Inevitably on a blog such as this in a world such as this there will, and should, be discussion of motives, diagnoses, policies; debate about what should and should not be done. For us outside, motion will begin again.

21 comments to The sadness seemed to seep out of the stones

  • RAB

    The sheer horror of this evil act of madness is hard enough to imagine, let alone dissect; but that is what is happening already.

    Expect your Second Amendment rights to be under considerable pressure from Barry and the boys from Chicago: They never liked them in the first place. As Dunblane did for our right to own handguns, this may very well do for yours.

    It’s Christmas, a time for children, love and giving. My tears and thoughts are with the parents of those poor innocent kids, whose presents are already wrapped and under the tree, never to be unwrapped, with whoops of joy and thanks, kisses and hugs. Those poor bloody people.

  • John W

    There will be many other massacres – and they will all have the same cause.

  • Regional

    If you Google gun deaths in American and European schools there’s no exceptional difference and remember there’s a lot more guns in America

  • Regional

    Anyone remember the Boontown Rats and I don’t like Mondays?

  • Mr Ecks

    Reason must be the only guide in these matters not sentiment. Americas concealed carry laws and the reductions in violent crime they have brought about have already saved many more lives than have been lost in this incident, the previous “Batman premiere” incident and many more besides.

  • Julie near Chicago

    What Mr. Ecks said…and it’s all there is to say.

  • PersonFromPorlock

    Republicans need to propose making ‘gun-free zones’ illegal, if only for the pleasure of seeing the progressives clutching their pearls.

    Also, it would be a good, life-saving idea.

  • veryretired

    Just commented on a similar thread at Chi-boyz, so short version here:

    If you oppose legal confinement for mentally ill people, sought by those in their families who love them, then you should be required to provide living quarters for them with your own family.

    Let’s see some of that activism and legal wheeling and dealing live with the consequences of their advocacy.

  • Julie near Chicago

    Wallace,

    Wretchard’s piece is beautifully written, very moving, and gets its point across with great effect. [As an added treat, down among the comments there's a link to a YouTube of Szymanowski's Stabat Mater (lyrics are in the comment). Following that link, you have a choice of several composers' versions--Pergolesi, Haydn, Dvorak, Poulenc...possibly Lutaslowski, I forget...anyway, something for everyone.]

    Thank you very much for posting the link to Mr. Fernandez’ column.

    Still, once we have been fully reminded that plain, naked evil exists–once we have felt its presence anew–we must yank ourselves back from the images of the frightful things that come to capture us. We can only hope to save ourselves by returning to Mr. Eck’s advice again…”Reason must be the only guide.” Not our fears, not the thrall of Mystery…but Reason. Emotion says, Watch out–here there be monsters! And Reason replies, We will see if we cannot reason out an effective defense. And we must also ask our Reason: What are these monsters made of; and what is the mechanism by which they come to be?

    There are rational, non-mystical answers. And even if we cannot fix whatever it is that’s broken…there’s value in knowing the location and nature of the breakage. To the extent that we understand the world, though we cannot change it, it tends to be at least less frightening…and perhaps we can find a way to muddle through.

  • And even if we cannot
    fix whatever it is that’s
    broken…there’s value
    in knowing the location and nature of the
    breakage

    A very important point people tend to miss.

  • Brad

    What gets me most about incidences like this is, beyond those who call for outright bans on everything for every body, they are those who want to push through laws that feel good but do little, particularly in cases like this. There is already a movement declaring that they will limit magazine sizes, as if that is going to put a dent in scenarios where a mentally ill person, who has access to guns, and decides to go on a rampage. Anyone who has any acquaintanceship with guns knows it takes about three seconds to drop and replace a magazine. Those who go on a rampage will simply have more, smaller clips. And then ignore anything, if at all, that can practically be done to shrink the intersection between mentally ill people and access to guns, or the motivations which turn in this direction instead of they seeking help. The narrative simply turns to taking as much or little away from the low hanging fruit that is the population of people who pose statistically no problem whatsoever. There’s nothing that makes a frustrating situation a little more manageable than to push around people who had nothing to do with the situation.

  • Julie near Chicago

    Alisa, thank you. :>)

  • Julie near Chicago

    Dave Kopel on Guns, Terrorism & Teachers

    This is an old article (from the time of the Beslan massacre) that makes the point beautifully.

    Dave Kopel is an attorney and has been a “Second-Amendment Activist” since forever. He’s quite well-known in pro- and anti-self-defense circles here. Among other things, he posts often to Volokh.

    . . .

    September 02, 2004, 10:15 p.m.

    Follow the Leader

    Israel and Thailand set an example by arming teachers.

    http://old.nationalreview.com/kopel/kopel200409022215.asp

  • Sorry, and with all due respect to Dave Kopel and others who keep perpetuating the myth of Israeli teachers being armed: it is a myth, for the most part. Not only that most Israeli teachers are not armed, most Israeli adult population isn’t either. Not only that, but Israeli authorities continuously and consistently make it more difficult for Israeli citizens to lawfully own/possess guns, and this recent incident is being exploited by our local chatterati to its fullest to further perpetuate and accelerate that trend.

  • Julie near Chicago

    Alisa, wow! Thanks very much for the info. I know you folks have a serious Left problem along with everybody else (halfway rational, that is).

    Once again, I guess, “Trust, but verify.” –I’d just as soon shorten the maxim to, simply, “Verify.” :>(

  • Julie near Chicago

    Alisa,

    It occurs to me that the situation might be different now from what it was when the Kopel piece was written, in 2004–after all, that was 8 solid years ago. Do you think that’s a possibility? (I’m hoping so–I’d like to be able to trust at least a few of the “experts” on our side to get things right.)

    Thanks. :>)

  • PeterT

    An interesting link. If it was possible to have a rational debate about this in the UK I would surely use a lot of information from this article to help my case.

    http://reason.com/archives/2002/11/01/gun-controls-twisted-outcome

    Anybody else revolted by the BBC’s (and other UK media to be fair)holier than thou attitude to the US in this matter? I can barely watch it.

  • Bod

    PeterT,
    The unfortunate thing is that despite the UK press’ gag-inducing sanctimony, it’s still more trustworthy than almost all of the US coverage.

  • Paul Marks

    I was going to say “rest in peace” – but the victims were being used as political fodder (for the normal leftist power grab) before their bodies were even cold.

    As for the Gun Free School Act of 1990 – it does encourage people in schools to be without defence (it encourages things such as the events of last Friday).

    Ask Representatives and Senators if they will have the guts to vote to repeal it.

    And judge them on their reply.