You have heard it as often as I have, over the last two days, from journalists and survivors and your neighbors, since the butchery in Las Vegas’ abattoir. One CNN anchor tried to console a survivor, trying, in tears, to cope with the meaningless slaughter and with his … personal “guilt” that he had survived unscathed. The journo thought that the empty, false cliché would somehow bring consolation to the poor guy, though he immediately added that he had no idea what that reason was. God was, for once, not mentioned, but many of the millions of viewers of the interview would immediately have agreed that there MUST be some reason at work here, because they grew up with the idea that God is behind everything, either as a direct cause of events or, in this case, the One who allows such tragedies to happen so that – presumably, hopefully – some good will come from it. When you have been personally in harm’s way as a potential victim of a pointless mass-murder, you grasp for straws, you latch on to the conviction that there just HAS to be some MEANING in this massive ABSURDITY and the mystery of your own improbable survival. “God” is tailor-made to fill the gap.
Survival, for us as individuals and as a race, is the only pre-programed purpose we have. None of us can survive without food, water, air and shelter. Some of us, at least, must reproduce ourselves if our kind is to not become extinct. We can choose to sacrifice our life to save others from death, or to save ourselves from pain and despair, but the instinct for survival is innate. It is tempting to imagine that Someone gave us that instinct, that Someone makes or allows things to happen for purposes that may escape us but are part of Her/His hidden plan.
What else can we say to people trying to make sense of Las Vegas ? It is, for starters, unworthy of their and our own intelligence to fall back on the God-myth. Better to be honest and to offer the comfort of our presence and support – for as long as it takes. Outsiders like you and I will look back on the Mandalay Mayhem as part of a long list including Columbine and Sandy Hook. But the wounded, amputated, blinded, invalid, traumatized survivors – as well as those present who suffered no physical harm – will never get over that horrific personal experience. They will need our help for as long as they live, as we all – hopefully – unite to take the measures necessary to prevent such atrocities ever happening again. We can only hope that all of us will stop wasting our time trying to find reasons for Vegas (and the next meaningless act of madness). We should be busy campaigning for the U.S. and other countries to establish gun-laws at least as effective as those Australia enforced after the terror in Tasmania. It is not enough, Mr O’Reilly, “Bill” to his former Fox News viewers, to call the carnage “the price of freedom” (!)