Newtown, Connecticut: Memorial Program for the Mass Murder of Children and Teachers

The Sunday evening of the memorial service for the children and teachers who were massacred by a lone gunman killer (Sunday, December 16, 2012) was a very moving tribute by nearly every major religious denomination. The presentations were as varied as the expressions of grief characteristic of each different faith. Side by side, they gave a nation, which has the freedom of religious worship, a program of contrasting religious styles but with the same intent, to comfort the parents and the community. In this program nationally televised was an opportunity for millions of people to see different modes to the same end. It was an interesting exposure to different religious rituals and a very good “educative” experience, one very seldom experienced.

Nearly every belief but one was programmed. That one, not represented, has a point of view that ought not to be ignored, having an approach not irrelevant to the subjects that the final speaker, the President of the United States, included in his memorial speech. In the President’s remarks were the stuff of the view Humanists would put first because Humanists begin their thinking confronting such an atrocity with the process close to the nature of being human, the feelings and functioning of a humane citizenry. Humanists advocate the principles of humanism, concerned with the interests and welfare of human beings. Humanists, in this present event are equally equipped to comment on what the “why” question seeks for an answer.

That is where I begin my thoughts about the horrible acts of a lone gunman.

I was reminded of my humanist view at the very outset when I heard a man with a special white collar say on a recent news program, “That is not in God’s plan!” So quick to absolve God! I think he meant to say, that was not God’s fault. So I thought, hmmmm! So! There are people claiming to know God’s plan, eh? I have heard them often explicitly characterize the U.S. society as a wicked one. That basic evil nature of all of our society was, obviously, axiomatic with “fundamentalists”. Well then, they should tell us how God’s plan accounts for such acts, besides the blanket accusation.

The journalist half-dozen guidelines for any good news report on such an event as the mass killing of little ones is, five “w’s” and an “h”, who, what, when, where, how and why. The “why” in this story is the big stumbling block for journalistic coverge, and the toughest info to get, but more crucial than who, what, when, where, and how. The “WHY” confounds all the clergymen and humanists as well.

But I, as a humanist, would be set on a different path toward comforting words, the ultimate comforting knowledge, making our culture feel general comfort from living in it securely. We cannot be comforted until —

Humanists usually have a strong literary educational background, and in this instance they would not use the word “tragedy” so freely as all the journalists have used it. “Tragedy” has a long history of literary meaning, and people use it so freely, and wrongly, as a synonym of “catastrophe”. That literary sensitivity is lacking. As part of that “why did he do it?” question, they may think of the atrocity as a tragedy, but would ask explicitly, why did that person do that? Therein is the real story, the key to people’s questions. The journalists had an answer but it was not probed, the tyranny of the deadline, I suppose.

They would see that the tragedy is to be located in the killer’s choice of acts: why did he act that way? What was the nature of the killer’s acts? Wrongdoing by ignorance, mistaken or accidental error, or was it deliberate iniquity or error? They would uncover the fact that the killer went to that same school when he was a child, that he had certain behavioral difficulties as a child himself, behaving in very different ways from the other children there, and that the school could not accomodate him and his personal problems. The school did not have or seek the resources that such a “different” child should have had. That’s as I heard it. Ultimately, the fault was the school’s, and thus society’s, that built into that child the character that could kill, by ignoring behavior that required changing, teaching and learning. I ask, is there a humanitarian deficit there, marked by a lack of humanistic values and a devotion to human welfare? How much should society feel the pain of its failure to identify his problems and to re-educate him in behavioral reponses that might possibly have prevented this atrocity? The humanist answer to “why” may be the best guide to future acts of society. That comes from a better, more useful analysis of using the word “tragedy”, leading to the basis of a possible, preventive solution.

That is the missing “w” in the jounalists’ questions.

I am always at the ready to “educate” the journalists and all people in this society to be more sensitive to the meanings of such words. I want here to make people change their useage of that word “tragedy’. It is not appropriate for many accidents, car crashes that are truly accidents, not vehicular homicides, which may take on the meaning of tragedy if the driver has a certain flaw of character within his or her power to control.

I think the President, in his remarks, hinted at acts of government in the schools that would confront the true tragedy having such a tremendously hurtful outcome in the deaths of those little people, which have been taken to the heart of people everywhere around the world. All over the world, the feeling about the mass killing of little ones can be empathized. And this event did go around the world without regard to religion, but received in all cultures as a universally condemned atrocity. A humanist view would naturally lead to the conclusion that the real problem leading to a human tragedy is the choice of violent solutions to problems. Violence is too prevalent as a reflex act to resolve a problem. Simple as that. But where and when was that reflex ingrained? That question is always relevant to the humanists. Humanists have a high regard for finding answers to the “why” question.

I was emotionally affected by the various religious treatments juxtaposed for the occasion of the memorial program. But I did not hear that different treatment that would have come from a humanist view, to probe the real nature and implications of designating the killings as a “tragedy” leading to the cause for this memorial program.

I missed the secular voice, as an alternative viewpoint to the religious ones. There are probably more people claiming other identities than those which were represented. Can that omission be corrected? Nah! The religious voice is too loud for such occasions. The President’s voice came closest to the humanistic voice, I believe. And that is only right, because he is the President of all the people and must strike that chord familiar to all.

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2 CommentsLeave a comment

  1. You will find some fascinating points in time in this post but I don’t know if I see all of them heart to heart. There could be some validity but I’ll take hold opinion till I look into it further. Good post , thanks and we would like far more! Added to FeedBurner as properly

  2. this is amazingly interesting. thanks for the. we need more sites something like this.

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