Will we ever know why? Only if we take time to find the truth first...
The frequency of mass shootings in the U.S. boggles the mind and sadly desensitizes us. We've had two alone in the Milwaukee area this year, happening just weeks apart. The shock of the first had barely worn off before the second awful event.
Each time, the burning question eventually becomes, "why?" What makes someone go off in such a deadly, senseless manner? What makes a person so down on their own situation not only decide to end their own life but to all take all manner of innocent bystanders with him?
In both local cases, "why" was answered fairly soon: the Oak Creek Sikh temple shootings are deemed the act of a lone racist, while the Brookfield salon carnage is linked to a long-roiling domestic situation.
Now comes Newtown.
The Connecticut hamlet is the new low in mass murder, with most of the victims being small children. It's a day we collectively dreaded and hoped would never happen. And now it is upon us.
And again, the question is why.
The answer may not be as forthcoming as it was locally, at least if we look back at history.
There was a time when Columbine was the nadir, the thought of high school students laying waste to classmates considered about as bad as it could get. There were many stories told about that day as the smoke cleared and, as it turns out, some of them were actually true.
In wake of Connecticut, the Los Angeles Times' Carolyn Kellogg brought back the paper's review of "Columbine", a book written by reporter Dave Cullen written ten years after the carnage. Cullen's conclusion: in the case of Aurora shootings, it took years to answer the question why, even though many of the misconceptions linger. Kellogg hints that it may be the same with Newtown as well.
Our rush to report, to answer, to analyze isn't new. In the hours after Connecticut gunfire, there were a lot of things that came out wrong--the shooter's name, for one. We originally reported that the shooter's mom worked a the school. Not so.
After colossal horror, it's only human to want to answer that most vexing of questions, to want to know why the unspeakable and random can happen. Such incidents are reminders of our own mortality and vulnerability, not to mention that of those we love.
Connecticut could be like Columbine in that the answers may not come soon. As the reviewer of Cullen's book wrote at the time, "Indeed, if Cullen's book offers any overarching lesson it's that some stories can only be demystified by taking the long view--especially a story as troublesome and complicated as this."