It is in times like these, on days like these, that the objective facts of the terrifying conditions we all live in are brought home.
In 1964, when I was nine years old, my parents took me to the Bergen-Belsen concentration camp in Germany. I wandered through halls filled with the most awful photographs of starving, emaciated Jews, piles of corpses, in a daze of horror. I walked past the mounds covering thousands of bodies. When I left the memorial, I realized that this planet was nothing like the peaceful place it appeared to be.
The incident was life-changing. I have never been able to see the conditions on the planet as anything other than terrifying since then. We are in a desperate place that takes desperate measures.
Earth itself could be a paradise, relatively speaking. But we have created our own hell, and we live in it, each of us. When awful events like the events of yesterday in Connecticut take place, we are stunned, aghast, horrified — one could just list adjectives paragraph after paragraph, and that is indeed what we seem to do in our efforts to rationalize the events. But these events aren't rational, and will always defy our attempts to rationalize them. They confront us with our own fears, our own inner violence, the responsibility each one of us bears for the terror that we create in human society. That terror begins in each one of us; and it's not so easy to expunge.
I don't think we see that the guns would not be there if we were not how we are. They represent what we are; they symbolize what we are. War, torture, brutality; claiming high principles, we deny them all, yet they belong to us. My moment in Belsen was a moment, I now see, where I looked into the mirror of our inhumanity.
It reminds me of what Krishnamurti once said: war begins in each of us.
Yet look at how our media, our politicians, all immediately begin to outsource the blame. Everything is a mop-up operation; and what we are always mopping up is the blood. No one ever gets there in time to keep it from being shed. There are too many men with enough courage to kill one another, and not enough men with the courage to stop the violence.
This is going on all over the planet. Today, hundreds of people will be killed in Syria, Iraq, Afghanistan, Pakistan, El Salvador, Mexico, the Congo... yes, America... and all the other places... everywhere... where men decide that they should destroy one another. It is always, they protest in the loudest possible voice, necessary.
Perhaps it's only when children die in a catastrophe of this kind that we begin to see the reality of it all; that it is never "necessary."
And what is actually necessary never happens.
Leadership on this issue isn't there; we have a majority of cowards. And the killing goes on. We act as though we are horrified; but look, in America, at how comfortable we are with it. This is what we don't see. As a society, we condone this kind of killing. If we didn't, our gun laws would be different... our movies would be different... our politics would be different. Our television and our media would be different. But they are all of the same texture; and that texture is as coarse and appalling as the behaviors and events we, in our hubris, collectively claim to disown.
Nothing will happen after this; laws won't be changed. And I will have to write a similar column the next time, because the date is somewhere out there on the calendar already.
We just don't know what day.