My father used to wake up in the middle of the night screaming. Lying in my bed, I couldn’t imagine the terrors that made the center of my universe spin off into fear and madness. Actually, I could. My father told me what the Nazis had done to him, his family and his friends. The exhaustion. Starvation. Disease. Loneliness. Desperation. Hopelessness. Murder. Torture. Death. Out of all that horror, I knew what made my father scream: the beatings. Twice, he’d tried to escape the labor camp holding him as a slave. Twice, he was caught and beaten unconscious. When my father dreamed of the beatings he saw the faces of the men trying to kill him. He heard their laughter. And he screamed . . .
My father tried to tell me what it was like to stare into the face of evil. He tried to express a simple idea: it could be anyone. You don’t think it could, but it could. It could be anyone at all.
Equally, evil people are everywhere. America is only relatively safe. Maybe only temporarily. Growing up in a sheltered suburban enclave, I had a hard time appreciating the idea. I finally “go it” in Germany.
We were driving through the Federal Republic, tourists. It was a beautiful day; the sun shone on the Bavarian countryside. Everything around us looked neat, clean and prosperous. “It happened here,” he said, simply.
I’m sure the people of Newtown Connecticut are experiencing the same cognitive dissonance. It happened here? It happened here.
Here in a quaint New England town of 30,000 souls, with ten buildings on the National Historic Register, an evil man forced his way into an Elementary School and assassinated 20 children and six adults.
At some point in my childhood, my father bought a shotgun. He thought if he armed himself in the real world he’d be able to arm himself in his nightmares. If his tormentors returned, he’d shoot them.
That’s what you do when you’re faced with evil. Either you suffer at its hands or you destroy it. There is no “understanding” it. There is no accommodation. You get rid of it or you die trying.
“Never again” sounds great, in theory. In reality, as my father knew, it can happen again. If a Jew or the Jews or anyone is defenseless, if they fail to fight evil, and maybe even if they do, “it” can happen.
“It” happened in Newtown Connecticut, 132.6 miles from where I’m sitting. My central thought: I wish someone had shot the evil bastard in the head the moment he came in the door. Just walked up to him and blown his brains out.
I would have done it. I would have been proud to do it. My father would have been proud of me, too.
Don’t get me wrong: I don’t want to shoot another human being. I don’t dream of doing it, thank God. But I’d rather have an evil man’s exploding brains be my nightmare, perhaps my last vision on earth, than experience the nightmare of powerlessness that made my father scream.
Edmund Burke said “All that is necessary for the triumph of evil is that good men do nothing.” That’s not exactly right. All that is necessary for the triumph of evil is that good men be able to do nothing.
A good man will do the right thing. It is his nature. But if you disarm him (or her) you make it more difficult for the good man to confront and defeat evil. You allow evil to fester, spread and destroy all that is good in our world, if not the world itself.
In just three minutes, Adam Lanza destroyed the safe little world of Newtown Connecticut. In truth, it was never safe. In truth, none of us are safe. All of us, especially those caring for our children, should be prepared.
Would I put a two-shell shotgun like my father’s into a locked closet in every classroom in America? I would. Why wouldn’t I? In fact, why not equip classrooms with a far more wieldy and accurate AR-15 rifle like the one Lanza used to slaughter Newtown’s innocents?
Why not indeed.