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NASHVILLE, TENN. — I write about sports. There are a couple of stories that have been backed up on my to-do list today. I'm on a 400-mile trip to cover a basketball game Saturday. But it seems none of that is going to come until I write about something else first.
I wandered into truck stops on the way down Interstate 65 between Louisville, Ky., and Nashville, Tenn. And around every television monitor, people gathered, silently, to watch coverage of the Sandy Hook School shootings in Newtown, Conn.
Most of us were like one truck driver who quietly turned to a group of us watching a screen in a Wendy's restaurant truck stop outside Franklin, Ky., and said, "I need to get moving, but I can't."
All day I've heard coverage of the terrible events. Anger. Resolution. Promises to do something. One man outside Elizabethtown, Ky., asked no one, or everyone, "Where are all the good people who have guns when these things happen?" So many questions. But mainly, we're told now that everyone is on "a search for answers."
Here's the sad truth. There aren't any. There are no answers that will suffice. The gunman who slaughtered an entire kindergarten class after shooting his mother, the teacher, then drove to the school in assault gear with two pistols and a semi-automatic rifle, could've left a binder explaining his every thought and action, and it wouldn't matter.
There's a classroom full of children, still lying in that school where they were killed, even now, as I type this. And there are parents who cannot get to them, and who will never again get to them.
And there is no answer that ever will be of any significant meaning to them. Nor is there any answer that will prevent such things. Politicians will try. Pundits will rail.
This afternoon, a local university sent out suggestions for things to tell children in the wake of these events.
Here is something they will have to know, something we all must remember.
Evil exists. And man's capacity for evil should not be underestimated. Wherever there are humans, some will find ways to hurt each other. It should not be feared, but it should be understood. "When will it end?" I heard several times. It's a dubious question to ask of something that has always been.
This bloodshed today was a work of absolute evil. It will be given other names — sickness, society, insanity. But we would do well to call it what it is, by its real name.
And while the excruciating analysis that already has begun might address our anger, frustration and disbelief, let's also remember this — and this is what I'm inclined to tell my children:
The ultimate response to absolute evil is absolute good.
With the small bodies still in that classroom, the appropriate response to evil is not a debate.
The appropriate response of this nation is overwhelming good, be it prayer, support, affection, commemoration, whatever form it takes in the hearts and actions of individuals or groups, whether it be directed toward the people, town and school suffering in Connecticut, or closer to home, by being more vigilant, more engaged, more responsible.
There are hurting people who need to be lifted up, a school full of children and a town full of parents whose grief needs the grace of their great nation.
This isn't to suggest that we can solve big problems merely by holding hands. Good, frankly, is a hard thing to achieve, it is not practiced without courage and often sacrifice. It's more than symbol; it's action, often bold. Often it's action we ourselves don't want to take, but know we should. Nor is this reflection meant to take a tragic day and make the tired argument that it can be turned into a positive.
But at a time when evil seems to be exerting itself in increasing measure, perhaps it would do us all well to remember that, in the end, the only response likely to have any chance of meeting it is a force of good strong enough to overwhelm it from a people armed with more than enough good to turn it back.
CORRECTION: Widespread media accounts on the day of the shooting reported that the killer's mother was a teacher at the school where the shootings took place. A day later, authorities at the school said the woman had no connection with the school.
Wednesday, March 5 2014 8:53 AM EST2014-03-05 13:53:25 GMT
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