Anniversary of Mutual Tragedies: A Sad Explanation
David W. Hall
It was exactly a year ago that I wrote about two events which have
recurred: a senseless murder by a pack of teenagers and a cult
suicide. Awakening me from my dogmatic slumbers were the brutal murder
of Peter Lillelid's family by Kentucky teenagers and the Heaven's Gate
suicide. Those two events caught me unprepared for silence.
I argued that the murder of Peter Lillelid and his wife, when they
were killed by teenagers who hijacked their van and backed over their
corpses for extra measure, exhibited a frightening lack of moral
compass in our society. At the same time, religious cultists were
going off the deep end with a lack of theological compass in our
The confluence of the brutality with the irrationality seemed,
Upon this anniversary of those mutual tragedies, I am sad to suggest
that things have not gotten much better. This week presents the
unprepared public with two similar tragedies.
Yesterday, an eleven year old and a thirteen year old premeditatively
gathered their peers outside Westside Middle School in Jonesboro,
Arkansas and mowed down five people, including a 32 year-old pregnant
art teacher. They emptied 27 rounds of ammunition in a murder that,
similar to last year's, slaps the nation across the face.
This smell of gun powder in our noses shocks people into asking, "How
in the world can our youth be so misguided? How have we let a new
generation think that brutality and irrationality are OK?"
In discussing these things with my own children, I can only arrive at
one answer: These young people have not been taught that actions have
real consequences, and they must be blurring the fiction of cinema or
CD with the non-fiction of reality.
Even as low-level sentient creatures, they must have thought that this
gunning down of classmates was the moral equivalent of
spitball-shooting, paintballing, or a vigorous round of Doom or Quake.
Evidently, no one has taught them otherwise. No thoughtful explanation
could justify erasing five lives because of a break-up with a
girlfriend or a little peer rejection. Neither ethics nor mathematics
can support such murderous logic. So, how could those pre-pubescent
boys commit such horror?
These youths could only be fantasizing or expecting that their actions
would have no consequences or quickly forgotten. Or they may have
thought that in the present legal context, they could claim abuse and
find some bleeding-heart lawyer (connect the pun however you wish),
who would find some advocate of the abolition of capital punishment,
and they would not have too much penalty to pay. Likely, they'll be
out by the age of 18, long before the grieving families recover.
My only explanation is that many have been raised in an unreal world
that does not connect legal consequences with ethical actions. These
murderers had to think the dead would, as in other horror flicks, get
up later and walk around, at most maimed for life; and perhaps the BB
murderers would be glamorized by some CD.
At the same time, a Taiwanese cult following Master Chen gathered in
Garland, Texas. Similar to last year's Heaven's Gate cult, this one
expected God to make an appearance on Channel 18 at midnight. All
else, and all of reality, hinged on the empirically verifiable
Camera crews gathered, the film was rolling, and guess who did not
show up? Right, this was just another cult--like last year's fiasco.
Except Master Chen had one virtuous act: he told his followers that if
the midnight prophecy was not true, all of the rest of his prophecies
were nonsense. The difference between Master Chen and Marshall
Applewhite? Chen let reality have its due. Give him credit for that.
Sadly, the four dead teenagers and former art teacher in Jonesboro
will not have that option. Their lives have been taken, and cannot be
revived. No matter what intention, psychological background, or age of
the shooters, those families and that community have been assassinated
It is the unreality that tells our children that their actions can be
mitigated by their affect or that schools and churches cannot advocate
timeless moral norms. The ethical standard of our day, i. e., that
surely there are no fixed moral commands is an accomplice to murder in
If we teach children--as long as we have--that there are no
consequences for actions and that all can be forgiven and forgotten,
sooner or later they will believe us. And when they do, murder and
The consequences of a culture thinking there are no consequences,
however, are sadder than we want to think. The pain is unbearable for
The Sign of the Things to Come
Patrick S. Poole ( firstname.lastname@example.org )
An article I wrote several months ago after the Paducah, Kentucky high
school shooting expressed the view that the world (i.e., secular
society) has no cogent response to the senseless acts of violence
frequently perpetrated by today's youth. In the wake of the ambush
killings by an 11 and 13-year-old in Jonesboro, Arkansas earlier this
week, the half-hearted attempts by the secular media to explain these
tragic circumstances once again has fallen short of the true
While several of the journalistic superstars are getting experienced
reporting these incidents, none so far has been able to attach the
mental state of these children to any sense of personal
Tuesday evening, PUBLIC EYE host Bryant Gumble recounted the Jonesboro
tragedy on his television program. Reading some of the email from
viewers on the subject, one correspondent asked, "Where did they get
those guns," which prompted Bryant to respond, "I guess we'll have to
forward that one to the NRA."
It is nothing but rank partisan bias that would cause this
prognosticator to blame the instrument of murderous choice, while once
again avoiding the obvious conclusion -- these boys are to blame! Does
Bryant Gumble really think that the rifles used were the controlling
factor in the ambush? How inadequate an explanation. While firearms
may be an easy scapegoat in this case, how would Bryant respond to the
murders in Pearl, Mississippi late last year? Before going to school
to shoot his ex-girlfriend and another acquaintance dead, the subject
murdered his mother by slitting her throat with a steak knife. The
instrument clearly plays little role in the calculated rage that
drives these offenders to their crimes.
An offering by another pundit this week was that these boys surely
must have come from troubled homes. However, that doesn't appear to be
the case. In the Paducah shootings, the boy who committed the crimes
came from a home of upstanding citizens, leaving his siblings who grew
up in the same household to wonder why he committed his killings.
And now I must pause here to really question how much weight to give
to this accusation against parents. As has been the hope of many
secular utopians, parents are no longer the primary influence in a
child's life. Parents fall to a distant third when teachers and
television are taken into consideration.
This leaves me to wonder, what is the common thread in all of these
tragedies? Schools! Could it be that the gospel of pluralism and
secularism may be the major contributive influence to these epidemic
acts of lawlessness? What more demonstrative proof do we need that the
failed philosophies of the humanist and statist educators who author
the school curriculums have utterly failed in their attempt to create
their Brave New World heaven on earth? There is no amount of diversity
training or stress management seminars that will allow these New Age
prophets to deter acts of violence.
But there are presuppositions that our society refuses to confront.
The first is that deep inside the heart of every person, sin and utter
depravity reign as an integral part of our fallen nature. That is too
unbearable for us to consider. Secondly, in our post-Christian
culture, we have unleashed this darkness by removing the restraints of
personal responsibility and self-government. How deliciously
hypocritical that those who claim radical autonomy for man so quickly
cast their gaze to every conceivable contributive factor but the free
volition of the perpetrators. They refuse to admit that radical
accountability is the price of their radical autonomy.
In addition, we must come to the realization that this is the society
that we have become. Despite the nostalgia about how great our country
is, these incidents are merely a reflection of the godlessness and
corruption that we have bred in our children at school, home, church
and neighborhoods. These events are logical consequences of pagan
pathos that stands paramount in the heart of America. We must stop
acting in surprise when these horrible and tragic events occur, for to
do so is to avoid the sad and awful truth both about our cultural
condition. Whether these events occur in the suburbs or in the ghetto;
on a playground or in the street; in a home or in a school, they will
There is only one remedy to our moral and religious state of affairs,
and that pathway is far from us. Even the most deliberate efforts will
not be able to draw us up from the quagmire of barbarity we are
drowning in. The only cultural choices that remain for us to make are
the details of our own societal funeral.
Patterns of Child Crime Predictable
Jon Dougherty ( email@example.com )
Around the news room today I heard mixed reactions in response to the
ambush-style shooting deaths of four kids and one adult teacher at a
Jonesboro, Arkansas Middle School a few days ago. Some people believed
the youths, two boys aged 11 and 13 who were dressed in camouflage
clothing and loaded for bear, should be tried as adults and summarily
hung, shot, lethally-injected, or drug behind a car until dead. Others
believe that since they're youths, they have "much to live for" and
should be tried as juveniles so they can "get their lives back
together." I must admit I support neither of these positions; I think
the answer lies somewhere in between.
In fact, I find these two reactions -- clearly the most common of all
of them I have personally heard -- puzzling. None of these addresses
the root cause of this violence, and neither reaction-cum-solution for
this incident will do much to stop future atrocities.
As is normal after such an incident -- especially one so violent
involving criminals so young -- everyone wants to know why it
happened. And most people already have an answer to that question, or
at least one which they believe to be true. As a father of five
children who are close in age to the Jonesboro killers, I can only
offer what I believe are the root causes of this violence and what we
all must collectively do to solve this problem of worsening youth
First of all, in case no one yet noticed, these kids do not fit a
stereotypical image. They are White, come from what you could call
'good' homes, and they have not been in trouble before. These elements
alone make the crime all the more puzzling; it's always easier to
dismiss such violence as just "more of the same" when committed by
people from a distinct classification who have predictable mannerisms.
So, what went wrong?
Reason #1: Perhaps nothing did; maybe this is classic 'Murphey's Law;'
an inevitable occurrence that has no explanation, no rhyme and no
Reason #2: Perhaps, however, it is because of the kind of society
Americans have built for themselves in the latter Twentieth century.
If these boys had planned to have an accomplice pull a phony fire
alarm so they could ambush school students and teachers in another day
and time, it would be no less horrific but more easily explained [see
Reason #1]. But since it happened in 1998, a time when youth violence
has been steadily worsening as it has been increasing, see Reason #2.
To help understand this a little better, let's first eliminate the
things that did not contribute to this tragedy.
It did not happen because of guns; one day after the Jonesboro
shooting, two teachers were stabbed with a knife by a student in
Texas. It also did not happen because of television "violence"; though
depicted more graphically these days, televised "murders" have been a
staple of Hollywood films for many years. It did not happen because
the parents of these kids failed in their duties and didn't teach them
properly; if these two teens had the frame of mind to plan and execute
an ambush, they have the frame of mind to understand that killing
these people was wrong. And, it did not happen because of lax federal
school regulations; the government has mandated plenty of expensive
and largely ineffective new measures to "protect" schools from
violence for ten years.
Personally, I believe it happened because these kids have seen a
generation of adults and other teens engage in countless violent,
irresponsible acts, only to get by with them because our judicial
system practically refuses to punish people or hold them accountable.
By 'judicial system', I don't mean only the judges. Included in this
guilty party are juries, comprised of Mr. and Mrs. America, that do
stupid things like award dishonest whiners millions of dollars in
lawsuit "damages," who absolve obviously guilty people of their
violent crimes because they "feel" they didn't mean it or had a good
reason to kill [OJ Simpson, the Au Pair Nanny named Louise Woodward,
the Menendez Brothers], and who wrongly convict people without
demanding to hear all of the evidence [the OKC trials].
These kids know, for example, that they are kids, and as such will not
be punished under Arkansas law as adults. They know that they'll have
clean records after they've reached their 21st birthday. They know
that when they reach "legal" age, their sentences -- and their crime
-- will be erased completely, banned by law as a consideration for
employment, college, or a variety of other things. Meanwhile, their
victims are still dead and will never, ever have another "chance at
One person I overheard discussing this today mentioned their age and
how they'll be able to escape justice because of it. His solution was
to "hope" that the federal government could find some sort of loophole
in which to charge these kids as adults on a federal murder rap.
That's not the answer; the federal government meddles too much in our
lives as it is. A better solution would be for the federal government
to get out of the way and let states try criminals as they choose to.
Recent expert testimony on this fact has revealed that if allowed,
most states would pass legislation that would circumvent any and all
federal requirements [if the crimes did not occur on federal property]
in lieu of tougher standards. So far, any time this has been tried,
some federal judge somewhere has negated it [Alabama's attempt at
returning to the chain gangs, for example] in favor of a more
'compassionate' solution. Everyone is granted compassion except the
victims or their survivors.
Unless and until Americans demand that we put more teeth back into our
judicial system, these kinds of tragedies are going to continue. The
death penalty is not the answer and neither is leniency. Life
sentences, hard labor and forced servitude to the people wronged by
callous acts of crime are what worked best in the past. And they could
DeLay Tactics, or Poll-itics as Usual
R. C. Sproul, Jr. ( firstname.lastname@example.org )
I don't know what happens in secret political meetings. And of course
I probably never will, what with executive privilege possibly covering
such national security interests as conversations on scandal spin. I
don't know if "legislative privilege" exists such that any
conversations among Republican leaders will be protected. But I can
always imagine. There is Lott and Newt, wondering how to make hay out
of the Willey mess, but fearful of the President's approval ratings.
"Who," Newt asks, "is big enough to get some attention on the news,
but small enough to throw to the sharks if he fails."
"Well," answers Lott," let's go with Clinton's strategy, and delay."
"Great," says Newt, "I'll get him right on it." And thus was born
House Majority Whip Tom DeLay's long awaited floor speech telling the
president to come clean, and raising the ugly specter of impeachment.
DeLay challenged the President to speak clearly and answer his
critics. The press responded by suggesting not that that sounded like
a good idea, that maybe we should give truth a chance, but that DeLay
will be sorry, that talking impeachment is not a politically safe
thing to do when the president has job approval ratings in the low
sixties (and thankfully, finally, falling). That, I'm sure, will put a
stop to that.
The Republican party is terribly democratic. That is, it is more
interested in the will of the people than the rule of law. Just like
the president, they make decisions based on polls. Policy only changes
when poll numbers change. Those that have the sense to know that the
federal government is too big keep waiting for a politically safe time
to shrink it. In an age of three-year presidential election campaigns,
there never is a safe time.
That's why we are in the midst of a spectacle in which the Democrats
create public opinion via their surrogates in the media, and public
opinion determines the actions of the Republicans. Everyone is
standing around waiting for something to happen. We don't care about
the president's alleged crimes because the media has told us that
we're not supposed to care. That's why the television reporters keep
reporting on the "private life" of the president, and telling us it
doesn't matter. We tune in because it does matter, and tune out
because we're told it doesn't.
When politics becomes poll-itics, it ceases to aspire to
statesmanship. It ceases to inspire leadership. Where is the leader,
one who will say, "Polls be damned. The people are wrong. This does
matter, and we're going to get to the bottom of it if it costs us our
jobs."? Wherever this leader is, he or she is not inside the beltway.
He or she probably isn't even in either of the major parties. This
leader is probably sitting at home reading a column from the Covenant
Syndicate. Hopefully this leader is on his or her way to a meeting of
the U.S. Taxpayers Party. Hope to see you there.
Hope Springs Eternal
Paul Hein ( email@example.com )
It was a breathtaking announcement: The United States Undersecretary
of State announced that Holocaust victims would have until the year
2000 to make their claims for gold seized from them by the Nazis.
The U.S. was going to furnish a lot of the gold, along with England.
What is breathtaking about this is the fact that the United States
didn't seize the gold in the first place, and those from whom it was
stolen were not U.S. citizens.
Additionally, the biggest bank in Germany said Monday it was giving
$3.1 million to Jewish organizations from a 1995 gold sale of 711
pounds of the yellow metal, because it was suspected (!) that Nazis
may have robbed the precious metal from Jews.
Although the origins of the gold couldn't be traced beyond the early
1940s, it was possible that the gold had been stolen from Jewish
owners; or at least, it could not be ruled out.
Half of the money was to go to the World Jewish Restitution
Organization, which benefits Holocaust survivors, and the other half
to the March of the Living, which pays for Jews to travel to
concentration camps, and museums.
On April 5, 1933, Americans had their gold seized by the U.S. Their
silver followed suit on June 24, 1968. It wasn't claimed that these
precious metals weren't the legitimate property of the victims, or
that their possession of these metals was, in any way, a crime.
Is there a movement afoot to restore the gold or silver unlawfully
seized from Americans by the United States? I haven't heard a whisper
to that effect, although this seizure isn't merely "suspected," but an
undeniable and obvious fact.
Should anyone have the temerity to suggest such a thing, the reply
might refer to the difficulties of determining who is entitled to how
much, and where it would come from.
No such problem seems to deter the U.S. in its bizarre determination
to reimburse Holocaust victims, however. The amount seized has been
given a value of $6 billion dollars, in today's money (why not simply
return the gold as gold, if the metal itself was taken? If currency
was taken, I'm sure some old Reichsmarks, or whatever, could either be
found or reprinted.)
Is it going to be distributed only to Jewish victims, or to all Nazi
victims? Since the term "holocaust" is used, one suspects the former,
and can only marvel at the chutzpah of the Zionists in claiming from
governments which had nothing to do with the seizure, compensation for
people who were not citizens of those governments!
If the suspected seizure of the gold was a crime, as, in hindsight it
has become, isn't there a statute of limitations?
Isn't half a century a bit much? And isn't this "crime" only so
designated later, when the perpetrators were defeated in a war? Is
there some sort of international rule of law that says a government
defeated at war must make atonement for every evil which it did, even
though its acts were, by its own definitions, legal when committed?
Is the English government going to return the Elgin marbles, which
were stolen from Greece without even the convenient pretext of a state
of war? Are the Israelis going to return the land they took from the
Arabs? Let's hope the Navajo and Sioux don't get wind of this!
Our government would seem to be establishing a dangerous precedent in
returning to victims of government looting the looted spoils.
I am going to take advantage of this situation by contacting Mr.
Eizenstat, the Deputy Undersecretary of State referred to above, and
put in a claim for my silver, stolen in 1968, and my father's gold,
stolen in 1933.
In keeping with the logic of this situation, Mr. Eizenstat may ask
Peru and Sweden to contribute to a fund for my reimbursement, since
neither of those countries had anything to do with the seizure in the
I'd like to go visit some museums, too, and I'm willing to accept
compensation from anybody.
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March 26, 1998, vol. 2, no. 98
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Last updated on 08/05/10 07:59 PM