For those of us not personally affected by the shooting at Sandy Hook last Friday, after a weekend of shock, outrage and sadness, life returns to some semblance of normal. Adults go back to work, children return to school. We struggle to define normal after yet another senseless tragedy. That’s our new normal.
Personally, I have been wanting to write something about it, but have been struggling to find something worth writing about. Let’s face it, there are tons of news articles, blog posts, status updates and Tweets out there. Every plausible topic related to this horrible shooting has been written about. I have very definite opinions on the shooting, the shooter, gun control, the right to bear arms, our treatment and care of the mentally ill, prayer in schools, autism and any other discussion which are popping up around this shooting but I don’t have anything new to add to those discussions.
At least not enough to write a blog post about.
I have found the media attention on the shooting deplorable and I have not watched even one news broadcast or sought out one news article since the story broke. The 24-hour news cycle is playing on people’s shock and curiosity, throwing out nugget after nugget of half-truths and quasi-details as people try to make sense out of something which cannot be made sense of. The truth about the shooter has not come out and we will never know exactly why this boy did what he did. But with every news report, armchair psychologists the world over are diagnosing this kid, judging his parents and family and are tying up the package in nice little bundles.
Even that’s not worth writing about.
This morning, as I sat over coffee, I realized something. We will never know the answer as to why this shooting happened. We won’t know because there are just some questions which can never be answered, no matter how many facts we have, no matter how many discussions there are.
Some questions just defy answer.
I know that from my own personal experience with gun violence. Nearly 9 years ago my father shot himself and took his own life.
I am not going to go into his personal story here, as I have written about it it on my own website, but I know from dealing with the aftermath of his suicide a truth which I think is worth writing about.
This shooting, any senseless act of violence actually, is something for which we will never find the true answers that will stop making us ask the questions. The actual reasons that Adam Lanza decided to do this horrible thing are, and will only ever be known to him. No matter how many details come out about him, about his family, about the days leading up to the shooting, about whatever condition he might have or have not been diagnosed with, about whatever medications he was or was not taking, we will never know.
We will never know in a way that will make this okay.
This. Can. Never. Be. Okay.
We may develop theories, and maybe even with some luck, those theories may stop our sleepless nights. Time may help ease our pain, shock and the horror of it all but we will never know. We will never know in the same way that I will never know the sequence of thoughts and events which made my own dad decide to take his hand gun, put it in his mouth and pull the trigger. Yes, I have some idea of what my dad’s life was like, about what demons plagued him and I have managed to piece together what I think are the facts.
The real truth is though that my version of the facts, are just that my version, only my dad really knows the answer.
It took me a long time to come to grips with that, to find a way to accept that I will never know. I could have let my dad’s suicide rule over my life, the quest for answers become my raison d’etre. I could have examined every aspect of his life, analyzed every moment, every exchange that I had with him. I could have made my life about some kind of guilt over the fact that my dad was obviously in a lot of pain and I wasn’t able to help him. That in the final moments of his life, he didn’t understand that no matter what his pain, I would have been there for him, he could have leaned on me.
I made the conscious choice not to do that, not because I don’t care about the answers to all those questions, but because I know I will never have answers in a way that will truly end all my questions. Going on that quest is like riding some sort of merry-go-round, going round and round and round in circles but never really going anywhere.
I am not, by writing this, trying to say that we, as a society should not be talking about Sandy Hook. We should be, we should be mourning the victims and those of us with the reach to, should be trying to help the families of the victims any way we can. We should be talking about guns, senseless violence, mental health, video games and all of society’s ills. We should be trying to find a way to make it better, to make a better society, one where senseless acts of violence do not take innocent lives away from those that they love.
What we shouldn’t do though is get on that merry-go-round and fool ourselves into thinking that we will ever know exactly why Adam Lanza committed this horrible act.
Those answers don’t come. I know that from experience.