The need to find a lasting good

The nation needs to pursue the facts behind the school shooting. Then find redemption for the massacre of innocents.

It's four days in and I'm still trying to wrap my mind around what happened inside that elementary school in Newtown, Conn., last week.

Like people all over the country, I spent much of the weekend glued to the news on TV, absorbing each painful revelation as if that were my responsibility. As if the power of our collective grief could help that wounded communityheal.

There is no way to make sense of Friday's massacre of innocents. But that hasn't stopped the commentators from trying. Or kept us from gobbling up whatever tidbits we think may help explain what turned a quiet, awkward 20-year-old into a mass murderer.

People who hadn't spoken to Adam Lanza in years are being asked to speculate about what led the young man to shoot his mother to death, mow down two classrooms of first-graders and kill a half-dozen school employees.

Was it mental illness, a personality disorder, his parents' divorce?

"You knew this character," CNN's Piers Morgan said, prodding a college student who had known Lanza as a child. "Is this something you could have predicted — he would one day flip and do something as monstrous as this?"

No one, of course, could see this coming.

Everyone could see that Adam was odd: awkward, fidgety, withdrawn, unpredictable, almost always alone.

But you don't slaughter 6-year-olds because you don't fit in. Or because your parents' marriage fails. Or because you're struggling with autism.

We fixate on reports that Lanza suffered from Asperger's, a mild form of autism. But so do more than a million other American youths. That's akin to presuming the guy in the hoodie must be up to no good.

Still, we fumble for an explanation that makes this tragedy less scary and more concrete. We need something beyond unpredictable evil to restore our equilibrium.

But the craft of psychology may be inadequate to this. And our rush to judgment only illuminates how clueless we are and how complicated the problem is.

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After the victims are buried and the memorials come down, a painstaking reconstruction of Adam Lanza's life ought to be done. We need to try to figure out whether something went wrong with our mental health system, or something went wrong in thathome.

We know that Nancy Lanza was a woman who really liked guns. The three weapons her son armed himself with on Friday — two pistols and a semiautomatic assault rifle — were among several that she owned. She spent hours at the target range, with her son at her side.

We've heard her described as a devoted and protective mother, who built her life around her son. When he was little, she set up play dates so he might make friends. When he had meltdowns in high school, she'd rush to campus to calm him down.

But what kind of mother encourages her emotionally unbalanced son to share her hobby of shooting powerful guns? And what does that say about our nation's irrational love affair with guns?

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Maybe there's nothing the system could have done to keep Adam Lanza out of that school and guns out of his hands.

But I can't look at the photos of those dead children without seeing angels — and martyrs.

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