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)
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).
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.