Seeking clarity about tragedies that can’t be explained

Dylan RoofMy thoughts feel mashed together this morning.

In about an hour, I plan to be riding on a bicycle, which may bring some of those thoughts into focus. In the meantime, I sit here thinking about Memory Man, a novel published earlier this year by bestselling author David Baldacci. It’s a book I haven’t been able to put down as I try to avoid news this week about the real world. And the novel’s fictional world is calling me to read the last 60 pages instead of writing something here.

But I like routine and I like for my daily routine to begin here early each morning. So I’ll sit here until I write something.

As I sit here, I’ve been scanning headlines published online by both old and new media about Dylann Roof and listening to news about the 21-year-old arrested Thursday in connection with the shooting deaths of  nine people at Emanuel African Methodist Episcopal Church in Charleston, S.C.

Of the shootings, President Obama said: “Now is the time for mourning and healing, but let’s be clear: At some point, we as a country, will have to reckon with the fact that this type of mass violence does not happen in other advanced countries. It doesn’t happen in other places with this kind of frequency … It is in our power to do something about it.”

In general, I don’t blog about national tragedies like this because others are much better at it and I’m not likely to say anything insightful enough to make a difference.

But it seems as if the arguments are breaking into two camps:

  1. Access to too many guns is way too easy, putting them in the hands of too many people who shouldn’t have them and we need stricter gun laws.
  2. Dylann Roof — or anyone else who would do something like this, for that matter — has to be mentally ill and we should do something about untreated mental illnesses before we tighten gun laws.

About all of this, all I have to say is:

  • It’s unwise to pin the blame for this kind of tragedy on just one excuse.
  • Both of these arguments are at least partially correct.
  • The most vocal proponents of both arguments aren’t likely to find any common ground.
  • Dylann Roof won’t be the last angry, young white man in this country (and doesn’t it seem as if these shooters are always angry, young white men) to kill as many people as possible in a few minutes of blazing gunfire.

We’re told everything happens for a reason. But I’m not capable of understanding the reasons why something like the shooting at a South Carolina church is supposed to happen. And I am skeptical of anyone who has been quick to offer explanations in the immediate aftermath of the tragedy.