Mark Steyn weighs in on the massacre in Newtown, Connecticut without giving his own theories about the root causes, theories he says are "no doubt as ignorant and irrelevant as everybody else's."
What he does give is some historical perspective relating to the ignorant theories being bandied about by both the Left and the Right, as well as a reminder about the realities of human nature. In this column, Steyn resists his usual tendency to be irreverent and is sensitive toward the families who lost their children last week.
"Lullay, Thou little tiny Child
By by, lully, lullay..."
The 16th-century Coventry Carol, a mother's lament for her lost son, is the only song of the season about the other children of Christmas – the first-born of Bethlehem, slaughtered on Herod's orders after the Magi brought him the not-so-glad tidings that an infant of that city would grow up to be King of the Jews. As Matthew tells it, even in a story of miraculous birth, in the midst of life is death.... Then a century ago the Catholic Encyclopedia started digging into the numbers. The estimated population of Bethlehem at that time was around a thousand, which would put the toll of first-born sons under the age of 2 murdered by King Herod at approximately 20 – or about the same number of dead children as one school shooting on a December morning in Connecticut.
At the same time, Steyn is pointed in his criticism of the politicians and pundits rushing to push their favorite agendas.
The Left now seizes on every atrocity as a cudgel to beat whatever happens to be the Right's current hottest brand: Tucson, Arizona, was something to do with Sarah Palin's use of metaphor and other common literary devices – or "toxic rhetoric," as Paul Krugman put it; Aurora, Colorado, was something to do with the Tea Party, according to Brian Ross of ABC News. Since the humiliations of November, the Right no longer has any hot brands, so this time round the biens pensants have fallen back on "gun culture." Dimwit hacks bandy terms like "assault weapon," "assault rifle," "semi-automatic" and "automatic weapon" in endlessly interchangeable but ever more terrifying accumulations of high-tech state-of-the-art killing power....
Nor am I persuaded by the Right's emphasis on pre-emptive mental-health care. It's true that, if your first reaction on hearing breaking news of this kind is to assume the perpetrator is a male dweeb in his early twenties with poor socialization skills, you're unlikely to be wrong. But, in a society with ever fewer behavioral norms, who's to say what's odd?
Be sure to read the whole thing, because I've left out so much of the best of what he writes. He wraps up the column this way:
Meanwhile, the atheists have put up a new poster in Times Square: Underneath a picture of Santa, "Keep the Merry"; underneath a picture of Christ, "Dump the Myth." But in our time even Christians have dumped a lot of the myth while keeping the merry: Jesus, lambs, shepherds, yes; the slaughtered innocents of Bethlehem, kind of a downer. If the Christmas story is a myth, it's a perfectly constructed one, rooting the Savior's divinity in the miracle of His birth but unblinkered, in Matthew's account of Herod's response, about man's darker impulses:
"Then woe is me
Poor Child, for Thee
And ever mourn and may
For Thy parting
Nor say nor sing
By by, lully, lullay."