This morning, I read a news story about the gunman of Oslo, Norway. The man is young, handsome, and brilliant, using his brains to conduct a massacre — a fantastic, horrible opus of destruction.
Earlier, in the car, I told Paul about the book I am reading about Ghandi and Churchill, and how England and India came to be in the spot they were when those two figures clashed. The Great Mutiny in the mid-1800s set the stage for Britain to take a chokehold on the nation. The Mutiny was horrific, men summarily shot, women and children dragged by their hair, chopped to pieces and thrown into a well. And then, Britain committed its crimes against the Indians until the fever pitch heightened to sound across the globe.
Before, I read in Maria Trapp’s autobiography of the Nazi German takeover of Austria. How teachers were quickly dismissed and new ones instituted. How the children were told not to tell their parents what they were taught at school. And then, everyone started to turn on one another: parents hid their true feelings from children, children betrayed parents, friends betrayed friends, brother turned on brother, sister on sister, and so on. Not only were the gas ovens and firing lines and mass graves enough, but insidious fear turned the strongest ties known to man to buckle under the pressure. Mothers aborted babies in the eugenics push. Undesirables were euthenized by doctors taught to save lives.
Modern times developed our abilities to magnify our evils to immense proportions.
And what does it all mean?
Richard Foster, the author of one of my favorite life-changing books, Celebration of Discipline, described different ways of meditating. One of the ways to meditate is with prayer and a newspaper. The events of our day should cause us to reflect on ourselves, our culture, our world.
Americans tend to be individualistic. We like to answer for ourselves and no one else. But there were times when a person saw himself deeply embedded in his own tribe, his own people, his own nation. So much so, that he would feel that his people’s sins were to be counted against him, that if he were of an unclean tribe, he should be punished along with them.
Woe to us if we were to take that view today. To be counted alongside gunmen and shooters and serial murderers and child murderers and ohhh! it is an ugly, terrible sight to consider that the blood they spilled might be on our hands.
And the blood is on our hands. We must take responsibility for it. It is the only way to better our situation. We must claim them, recognize them as our own children, know that we raised them, taught them, and let them loose on the world.
And how do I change it? What penance should I pay for the sins of my people? This is a question to which I may have no answer. The best answer I can give is I focus inward, asking forgiveness for my own sins against God and others. I teach my children to do the same. I raise them to be generous and loving. And someday, I’ll let them loose on the world.
May God multiply what I do.