It’s frustrating. I get it. We feel powerless. We feel hopeless. Helpless. Seeing the headlines. Listening to the interviews. Watching the tears stream down the faces of friends and family members whose children were slaughtered in yet another violent, bloody and senseless school shooting. This time it happened at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School in Parkland, Florida. Seventeen dead, including students and faculty members. Dozens more injured. Utterly horrifying. It’s a tragedy in every sense of the word. Honestly, there are no words that can describe it.
Of course, many words will — and already have — been thrown around: “preventable,” “avoidable,” “unsurprising,” “predictable,” among others. Some of these even seem to be accurate in this particular case. After all, it turns out that the FBI was actually warned last September about a YouTube user named Nikolas Cruz, who had written a response to a vlogger and declared that he was “going to be a professional school shooter.” That vlogger was 36-year-old Ben Bennight. According to BuzzFeed, some agents from the Mississippi field office even showed up to conduct an in-person interview.
They came to my office the next morning and asked me if I knew anything about the person. [Cruz] I didn’t,” says Bennight. “They took a copy of the screenshot and that was the last I heard from them.”
On Wednesday of this week, 19-year-old Nikolas Cruz was arrested by police on the suspicion of opening fire at his former high school in Florida. Remember: he had been on the FBI’s radar since that original tip from Bennight on September 25, 2017 and yet nothing was ever done about it. And now 17 students are dead. Seventeen precious lives have been destroyed. Cruz was even described as “a loner,” obsessed with guns, knives and hunting. Moreover, he had been expelled from the high school last year for disciplinary reasons and some faculty members had long-since considered him to be “a threat.” And then there were all of those voices floating around in his head. Yes, seriously.
I can’t help but ask: Why wasn’t anything done about this guy? How many more red flags were needed before someone stepped in and at least said, “Something isn’t quite right here,”?
Anyway, within hours of the shooting, we were greeted by the typical, automatic, knee-jerk responses from our politicians, our media personalities and thousands of petulant, uneducated Internet trolls. It’s the same old routine: Everyone suddenly becomes an expert on gun control, automatic weapons, school security measures and so on. Before the bodies of the victims are in the ground, all of America descends upon Facebook and Twitter to blame Republicans, Democrats, Donald Trump, Barack Obama, the NRA, God and anyone or anything else that they can dream up. I suppose this is only natural. It’s human. I admit that I’ve found myself doing the same thing many times.
Yet, somehow, we never confront the reality that evil exists in our world and that it will never be overcome or solved by manmade institutions, laws, rules, regulations, codes or programs. We are unwilling to accept and admit that we are a fallen, sinful, broken species in desperate need of grace and redemption. Perhaps this is because, as humans ourselves, we don’t like the idea that some of our fellow human beings can behave the way that Nikolas Cruz behaved. We don’t particularly like the notion that — within every person on the planet — exists the capacity to carry out such acts of deranged evil.
It’s called sin.
And the moral dilemma of evil is not one that will be “fixed” or “solved” or “eradicated” by any sort of political legislation. Yes, there are certain things we can and should do in order to better protect ourselves, our families and our students. We can implement better protection at our schools by hiring retired police officers or veterans as security guards. We can better secure the guest check-in and check-out processes at schools across the nation. We can overhaul, reassess, reanalyze and scrutinize many things.
But — in the end — we must be willing to realize that it is not within our abilities or capacities to fully control or solve the plague of evil that infects our society. Until then, we may truly never make any actual progress.