It’s A Shanda for the Neighbors

That’s how my lace-curtain Irish grandmother would reprimand us, in a loose translation of her Yiddish-speaking neighbors’ shanda fur die goyim. The Newtown tragedy has disgraced America, per Evan Osnos in the New Yorker:

The children of Chengping were still filtering into the local elementary school on Friday morning, China time, when a deranged thirty-six-year-old man named Min Yingjun entered the campus. He carried a knife. (China bans private gun ownership.) By the time the security guards got to him, he had wounded twenty-two children and one adult. All survived. China, like most places, had seen this kind of madness before: one especially heavy string of school attacks in 2010 killed nearly twenty people and wounded more than fifty. The killers are as hard to recall in their particulars as they deserve.

A few hours later, on the other side of the globe, when Adam Lanza entered a primary school in Newtown, Connecticut, the particulars of his motive were unknown and, in the long run, beside the point…

It takes a lot to make China’s government—beset, as it is, by corruption and opacity and the paralyzing effects of special interests—look good, by comparison, in the eyes of its people these days. But we’ve done it. When Chinese viewers looked at the two attacks side by side, more than a few of them concluded, as this one did that, “from the look of it, there’s no difference between a ‘developed’ country and a ‘developing’ country. And there’s no such thing as human rights. People are the most violent creatures on earth, and China, with its ban on guns, is doing pretty well!”

It is a strange fact that in refusing to allow rational gun policies in America, the N.R.A. and its acolytes have damaged precisely the treasure they purport to hold so dear: the moral charisma of American liberty.

Historian and ex-seminarian Garry Wills on “our Moloch”:

Few crimes are more harshly forbidden in the Old Testament than sacrifice to the god Moloch (for which see Leviticus 18.21, 20.1-5). The sacrifice referred to was of living children consumed in the fires of offering to Moloch. Ever since then, worship of Moloch has been the sign of a deeply degraded culture. Ancient Romans justified the destruction of Carthage by noting that children were sacrificed to Moloch there. Milton represented Moloch as the first pagan god who joined Satan’s war on humankind:

First Moloch, horrid king, besmear’d with blood

Of human sacrifice, and parents’ tears,

Though for the noise of Drums and Timbrels loud

Their children’s cries unheard, that pass’d through fire

To his grim idol. (Paradise Lost 1.392-96)
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Read again those lines, with recent images seared into our brains—“besmeared with blood” and “parents’ tears.” They give the real meaning of what happened at Sandy Hook Elementary School Friday morning. That horror cannot be blamed just on one unhinged person. It was the sacrifice we as a culture made, and continually make, to our demonic god. We guarantee that crazed man after crazed man will have a flood of killing power readily supplied him. We have to make that offering, out of devotion to our Moloch, our god. The gun is our Moloch. We sacrifice children to him daily—sometimes, as at Sandy Hook, by directly throwing them into the fire-hose of bullets from our protected private killing machines, sometimes by blighting our children’s lives by the death of a parent, a schoolmate, a teacher, a protector. Sometime this is done by mass killings (eight this year), sometimes by private offerings to the god (thousands this year).
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The gun is not a mere tool, a bit of technology, a political issue, a point of debate. It is an object of reverence. Devotion to it precludes interruption with the sacrifices it entails. Like most gods, it does what it will, and cannot be questioned. Its acolytes think it is capable only of good things. It guarantees life and safety and freedom. It even guarantees law. Law grows from it. Then how can law question it?…

Historian Jill LePore, in the New Yorker:

At Sandy Hook yesterday morning, teachers and librarians tucked children behind bookcases, secreted them in closets, and locked them in bathrooms to hide them from the gunman. Elementary school will never be quite the same again, the way that college, after Virginia Tech, was never quite the same, the way that high school, after Columbine, was never quite the same. Children—barely older than toddlers—will be drilled, will be taught what to do when the shooting starts. Duck, hide under your desk, and be still. “Shh,” we will whisper to them as they huddle and tremble. “Be as quiet as a bunny.”

This is the United States in lockdown. On our knees.

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16 replies
  1. 1
    Cassidy says:

    I am so tired of correcting that 22 killed in China lie.

  2. 2
    David Koch says:

    Tonight is SNL’s Xmas show. I wonder if they’ll have the guts to address the slaughter.

  3. 3
    Ash Can says:

    When forensic historians look back at what caused the downfall of the US, from world power to cipher/colony/extinction, our broken and festering Second Amendment will figure prominently among the contributing factors.

  4. 4
    efgoldman says:

    @Cassidy:

    I am so tired of correcting that 22 killed in China lie.

    Please, for those of us more ignorant than you, explain.
    =========
    mrs efgoldman and I were on vacation all this week. We came back to our hotel in DC at about 530 Friday, flipped on the news to find…. this. I see other posts below which I have not explored yet, but I’ll bet a lot of them say what I’ve thought for the last day plus: there are no words.

  5. 5
    Cassidy says:

    @efgoldman: Basically, the RW noise machine immediately started telling everyone that the man in China who attacked a school on the same day killed 22 people with a knife. So in my discussions, my more conservative aligned friends and family member will bring this up and I’ll have to correct it and tell them that no he didn’t kill 22 people. He wounded and traumatized them, but they’re not dead. That’s the difference between the gun and knife. Tonight I had one dismiss it and say that the intent was the same. They refuse to let anything crack the delusion. Nothing. You confront them with one fact and they hop to something else.

  6. 6
    seattlewriter says:

    @efgoldman: As noted, there were 22 wounded in China. But a lot of people, in “defending” gun rights in the US, keep saying that China has it just as bad, and they don’t even have private gun ownership, and look at all the children who were killed there by a knife. Only they weren’t killed. But, you know, details, whatever. Post-truth society.

  7. 7
    Scamp Dog says:

    @efgoldman: None of them died. They’re awful injuries, I’m sure, but their parents still have their children alive.

  8. 8
    Anne Laurie says:

    @efgoldman: Fox News talking heads claimed, during the aftermath-fustercluck yesterday, that 22 kids were just killed in China so BOTHSIDES!

    One reason I put this up is that, no, despite the FaceBook fires, the horrible Chinese assault left the kids & their community traumatized but not dead.

  9. 9
    Alison says:

    @David Koch: The “guts” to do so? I don’t get that. It’s not a news program, and personally I can’t think of a way for a sketch comedy show to appropriately address a massacre of children. I mean, even making NRA gun nut jokes would be out of line, IMO. What exactly would you want them to do?

  10. 10
    efgoldman says:

    @Anne Laurie:

    One reason I put this up is that, no, despite the FaceBook fires, the horrible Chinese assault left the kids & their community traumatized but not dead.

    I knew there was something wrong with it, but 1) as I said I’ve been out of touch and 2) I’d sooner trash every TV in the house, in the neighborhood, in the world, than ever allow even a nanosecond of Fox News.

  11. 11
    gwangung says:

    Basically, the RW noise machine immediately started telling everyone that the man in China who attacked a school on the same day killed 22 people with a knife. So in my discussions, my more conservative aligned friends and family member will bring this up and I’ll have to correct it and tell them that no he didn’t kill 22 people. He wounded and traumatized them, but they’re not dead. That’s the difference between the gun and knife. Tonight I had one dismiss it and say that the intent was the same.

    THe intent is the same, but the result was not.

    WHICH IS THE FUCKING POINT.

    Basically, that wing nut is saying that he’s OK with mounds of children being killed, because it’s the price he wants to pay for no fetters on gun ownership.

  12. 12
    Spankyslappybottom says:

    Re Wills, I personally can do without the Bible as authority for moral behavior. You, I, and anyone else who reads this is more reliable assessor of right acts.

  13. 13
    Chris T. says:

    @Cassidy:

    Tonight I had one dismiss it and say that the intent was the same.

    You should immediately pull out one knife and one gun (fake prop weapons are fine), and tell him: “Choose which weapon I use now. Oh wait, you said it’s the same. So don’t choose. Flip a coin. Heads I knife you, tails I shoot you.”

  14. 14
    Emily says:

    If knives are just as effective as guns, why does the Army spend all that extra money buying fancy guns for the soldiers? Just issue everybody a Bowie knife. Think of the savings.

  15. 15
    Ejoiner says:

    Thank you for the post, Anne. I found it very moving and a deeply accurate description of the affliction which is eating at our society.

  16. 16
    Heliopause says:

    “our Moloch”

    Our Yahweh is a perfectly adequate metaphor, thank you. Our Yahweh drowned the entire human race in a fit of pique. Our Yahweh commanded tens of thousands of children put to the sword in the conquest of the Promised Land. Our Yahweh has an unquenchable thirst for the blood of terrified animals who have their throats slit for no other reason than it pleases him.

    Moloch is the deity who lost because he wasn’t brutal enough to beat the winner. And as we all know, history is written by the winner.

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