The gates of hell opened upon a small town in Connecticut this morning, and the devil showed his true face to the little children.
As usual, Beelzebub looked a lot like us. Or a wild-eyed, murderous version of us.
We are a people that like to brag about the better angels of our nature, the divine spark that Abraham Lincoln once futilely tried to summon for a nation that instead imagined it saw nobility in the abyss. We also are a people that says its children are its future.
And, indeed, our children can embody the best that we are. Symbolize the best to which we aspire -- or say we aspire -- and sometimes even achieve.
"But Jesus said to them: Suffer the little children, and forbid them not to come to me: for the kingdom of heaven is for such."
Today, in this vail of tears we inhabit, Satan said "Let the little children suffer." And then one of his henchmen on earth, in a place called Newtown, Conn., walked into a school packing heat. He killed the principal. He killed school staff.
Most of all, he killed the children -- 20 of them. He gunned them down without hesitation and without mercy. Many were kindergartners.
THIS WAS the work of a madman who once was a little child. Who was the son of a mother -- a kindergarten teacher at the site of his devilish rampage -- who, no doubt, loved him very much.
He killed her, too.
Fallen child of God that I am -- no angel am I . . . no way -- the first thing I wanted for the killer of 6-year-olds at Sandy Hook Elementary School was for vengeance to be wrought upon him. I envisioned a .45 caliber handgun, and some administrator of God's wrath shooting off one of his digits at a time, until none were left.
And then the Saturday Night Special of Justice would get down to business.
That will not happen . . . not because we Americans are such pillars of justice and devotees of human dignity, but instead because Adam Lanza, 20, turned one of his guns on himself in a school hallway. Our revenge fantasies will remain just that.
The apostle Paul once reminded us that "Vengeance is mine; I will repay, saith the Lord." The Lord God has stepped up to the plate. He'll be taking the swings, not us. That's a good thing.
I AM old enough to remember when events like today's in small-town Connecticut were virtually unthinkable. We had little frame of contemporary reference. When it did happen, it was so extraordinary that a TV movie surely lay in the prime-time future, and we'd forever remember the name of the perpetrator.
You know, like Charles Whitman, the "tower shooter" in 1966 at the University of Texas. He only killed 13, unlike Whatshisname.
"Whatshisname" is what we call all the madmen since Columbine. Ever since we and the world we inhabit have gone progressively more mad with the passing of each bloody year.
I don't know about you, but I'm starting to agree with my old man, who famously said a couple of months before his death, "Dey ain't no hope!"
Dey ain't no hope, indeed.
On the other hand, I am smart enough not to rely on my own judgment in this matter. To help me face times like these -- particularly Christmastimes like these -- I turn instead to the wiser counsel of Henry Wadsworth Longfellow and Johnny Cash.
GOD bless us, every one.