This is the space in which I usually write satire, making fun of the absurd ideas of our friends on the left. I do this because if I can’t find the humor in absurdity, the world becomes too grim to bear. And absurdity is funny, even when—maybe especially when—it’s the absurdity of corruption. We were created to be like the angels, and have fallen to be less than men. That ought to be good for a laugh or two, same as when a toff in a tuxedo slips and falls into a mud puddle.
But, of course, as your mother used to tell you about fighting with your siblings, it’s all fun and games until somebody gets hurt. The same is true of the fall of man. It’s absurdly hilarious until the shooting starts.
There’s nothing worse than this. The killings in El Paso and Dayton, one by a right-leaning evil doer one by an evil doer on the left. Our countrymen snuffed out by two of Satan’s glove puppets, people who are no longer fully human because the devil got into them through their broken places and devoured the men God made them to be. The words that always come to my mind in these moments are the famous words of the philosopher Wittgenstein: “Whereof one cannot speak, thereof one must be silent.”
Would that we could follow that advice. But since we can’t—and since social media seems to give the worst of us the loudest voices—let me suggest just a couple of guidelines for speaking about the unspeakable.
First, your political opponents are not to blame. No one has blood on his hands but the killer. In a moment of anger after a tragic event, I made this mistake myself once—blaming Obama’s anti-police rhetoric for the cop killings in Dallas—and I’m sorry for it. Obama was wrong, maybe even careless, but only the shooter was to blame.
Look, we all have points of view. We may be unhappy with the nation’s turn away from religion. We may feel religion is partly to blame. We may not like guns. We may not like undue restrictions on guns. And we may prove to be right in our opinions. But the people who advocate for the things we oppose are not evil murderers. They feel they have good reasons for what they fight for. They are trying to do what’s right. They may be wildly wrong. We can debate them. We can even deride them. But we can’t confuse them with the enemy.
And second, it may be—it almost surely is—that there are some evils we cannot eliminate without doing undue damage to the greater cause of freedom. White supremacy is a despicable philosophy. It is an offense against the good God who made us in His image. It is an intellectual path that leads straight to hell. But I would rather preserve our right to free speech and thought than forbid even this vomitous ugliness. We know that once we begin to silence people, free speech is lost and only political power remains: who has the political force to label his opponent a white supremacist—or a fascist or a Communist or a heretic or whatever—and gag him for the supposed good of all. Cultural problems require cultural solutions. Even if you could chain people to righteousness, the chains themselves would be so great an evil as to override whatever good was gained. People of good will must instead united in denouncing this sort of evil without using the denunciations to try to maneuver for political position.
In any case, this much seems clear. Not one choice, perfectly worded, ever-so-witty Twitter-flung insult has brought us even a millimeter closer to a solution. Nothing we have tried has done that. So let us try something new: information gathering, civil debate in which we listen to the people we disagree with most and carefully vetted attempts at solutions. Come, let us reason together. And in the meantime, let us pray as the spirit tells us to: with sighs too deep for words.