When authorized to test Job's devotion to God, Satan got around eventually to killing all of Job's 10 children. Satan, or his agent, managed to kill twice that many, in addition to six adult caregivers, at Newtown a year ago.
It is cold comfort, especially to the children's parents, to be told..."there is evil in the world"...as the convenient theological response to these otherwise inexplicable tragedies. Dostoevsky's Ivan Karamazov could find no justification in any religious doctrine for the suffering and death of innocent children.
There is a plague on the loose in early 21st century America. It is alienated young males who take advantage of easy access to firearms to carry out bloody-minded slaughter and avoid accountability by choosing a suicidal exit. It would require the author of Job, from the eighth century B.C., to fathom their motive. Given the stakes and the consequences, the machinations of Satan make more sense than unhappiness with a debate coach.
Some say too many guns. Others say mental illness. Still others say broken homes and unhappy families. And still others say violence in what we rather strangely call "entertainment." As usual with plagues, it is undoubtedly a combination of all these and other factors. But we owe it to the children of America still alive, as well as those tragically dead at Newtown, to try to find out and not treat this plague as just one damn thing after another in our turbulent lives.
Whatever some may think, we are a nation, a nation with a society. Unless you are among those who believe it is every man for himself -- and thus arm yourself to the teeth, we have a duty to protect our children every way we can. Very few of us live in gated communities with private armed guards. We pay taxes (despite the grievances of anti-government groups) in part to provide security for ourselves, our families, and our communities. Our law enforcement services are learning new ways to try to limit the deaths caused by the plague of alienated young males armed with state-of-the-art combat assault weapons.
The default position on which the pro-gun and anti-gun lobbies concur is improvement in mental health. But that seems a convenient avoidance of a more complex problem -- a plague. How many of these children assassins have demonstrated sufficient mental disturbance to qualify them for identification and involuntary detention? Improving access to psychological counseling and treatment assumes that parents and particularly the potential villains themselves will seek it and use it. Let us hope a small army of psychologists and psychiatrists are intensively focused on this plague. If so, they are doing so quietly.
Absent a more comprehensive and insightful approach to this social plague, we will continue to hope for the best -- at least that the next slaughter does not occur at our children's school -- but be less than surprised when we experience the worst...over and over again.
For those of us afflicted with the curse of memory of Newtown nightmares, and the pictures of beautiful, but dead, children and with an inescapable need to look for answers and even cures, that kind of acceptance -- that there is always evil in the world -- does not suffice.
Newtown is a very dark cloud growing over the bright promise and hope of America. It cannot be merely accepted as a fact of modern life. It must be addressed and dealt with in the best ways the human mind and heart may devise. We can do nothing less.
Our political system and our legal system, our national conscience and our moral authority are at stake. We are not permitted to forget and move on.
God, we are told, restored to Job twofold all that he had lost in terms of cattle, land, and servants. He was given ten children back. They were, of course, not the same children, but the daughters, we are also assured, were more beautiful than any others. As if that were sufficient to heal a father's broken heart.
That may be good enough for Job. But it must not be good enough for us.