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French philosopher Simone Weil in the 1930s wrote: “Never react to an evil in such a way as to augment it.” In recent days, the United States has endured yet another spasm of senseless violence, this time in El Paso, Texas and in Dayton, Ohio. The two young men who conducted these mass casualty attacks were evil, plain and simple. Yet, to listen to the media, one would think the shooters were motivated solely by politics. And, depending on your own political proclivities, you’ve got your choice of narrative to pick from this time around, since one shooter appears to have been right wing and the other a confirmed leftist.
If neither of those narratives works for you, you can always cling to the even more simplistic notion that both shooters were just the most recent victims of some kind of mental health crisis.
Each of these simple explanations is wrong. In fact, as legendary physicist Neil de Grasse Tyson pointed out, gun-related deaths are not even a leading cause of death in the United States today. Though it’s true that mental health and our system of dealing with mental health in the United States has declined over at least the last 30 years, that decline is not to blame for the recent spate of mass shootings. After all, if declining mental health were the principal cause, why aren’t we seeing even more mass shootings than we’ve already experienced?
Contrary to the narratives, the two young men who shot their way to infamy in Texas and Ohio did not act out of any discernible political motivation. Yes, they had political opinions and expressed them on social media. But, that does not explain why they did what they did. Nor did they commit their heinous crimes because they were crazy.
Put simply, these two young men were evil. Yes, evil. Because of their actions, two small, quiet American communities have been upended; 22 people in El Paso are dead and at least nine innocent people are dead in Dayton—including the shooter’s own sister.
Why are we so hard-pressed in America today to recognize that evil exists, or that there is often little besides standing strong to be done about it? Good people do and will suffer because of evil. The men who conducted these attacks should be punished severely. That is why we are supposed to have the rule of law in this country. What we cannot do is allow the perpetrators of these evil acts to be absolved by engaging in a game of blaming each other—and ourselves—for their crimes.
In this regard, Simone Weil’s admonishment from 1933 is as true now as it was then. As a society, we should do nothing that augments and amplifies the evil acts that have been perpetrated in El Paso and Dayton. But that is precisely what we Americans have been doing in recent decades after every one of these atrocities. Neither the American people, nor gun laws, nor video games, nor mental health policy, nor political opinions, nor President Trump, nor Elizabeth Warren is responsible for these crimes.
Instead of being honest about this, our political elites are eager to use the events to score points. Reject answers that are too easy to be good.
Time to ban guns, says Representative Dan Crenshaw, a Texas Republican. As a former Navy SEAL who has seen combat, he should know that evil exists. A jihadi armed with an IED assembled out of basic home goods is as effective in killing innocent people as a young adult in El Paso or Dayton, armed with a gun. It’s the evil, not the guns.
After 9/11 the political class warned us against disrupting our lifestyles. We were prompted to continue buying things and living our lives as though nothing had happened. Why? Because evil only prevails when the good and innocent people of the world change their behavior to better comport with the demands of evil. Now, these same elites blame everyone but the attackers for the recent bloodshed and insist that everyone change their way of life to prevent future acts of evil.
Of course, our political elite are so blinkered by their progressivism that they are incapable of ascribing evil to anything other than the Right. The two shooters could not have done what they did simply because they felt like being bad or sowing chaos. Oh, no! There is a larger, political reason and a policy must be enacted to correct it.
We used to overcome evil with strength and stoicism. Now we embrace it with our false sense of understanding and our endless, political self-flagellation. No law or executive order can change human nature. This is something the utopian Left has never learned. They still labor under the delusion that man is a perfectible creature. He is not. And we all suffer because of that delusion.
Man’s nature is flawed but it is fixed, as Adam Smith said. Anyone who believes otherwise will do exactly what Simone Weil begged us not to do: react to an evil in such a way as to augment it.
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