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The dead soul of Stephen Paddock

Patrick Buchanan on

Monday, the president spoke at the White House on the "act of pure evil" Paddock perpetrated Sunday night. Network and cable TV anchors and correspondents stampeded to Las Vegas to dig into his background and motivation.

Commentators discoursed on the meaning of it all. Congress is aflame with demands for gun laws against "bump stocks" that turn semiautomatic AR-15s and AK-47s to fully automatic. Paddock's deeds pushed Puerto Rico and North Korea out of the headlines. By Wednesday, Trump himself was in Vegas. Five days later, police and FBI are still searching for the "motive."

Whatever caused Paddock to conclude that ending his life was preferable to living it is not the crucial question. Suicides are not uncommon in America. About 3 of every 4 are carried out by white males; 121 are committed daily, with gunshot a common method.

The real question is what turned Paddock into a psychopath without conscience or a moral code that would scream to him that what he was planning was pure evil.

Unlike ISIS terrorists who believe they are soldiers of Islam doing the will of Allah, and will achieve paradise for slaughtering infidels, Stephen Paddock did not believe anything like this.

He coolly and patiently plotted mass murder almost for sport. He rented a hotel suite with windows overlooking a coming country music concert, his fighting fort. He ferried in, over five days, half his home arsenal of 40-some guns, with the semi-automatic assault rifles modified to fire fully automatic. He installed cameras to alert him to when police were about to break in and kill him. Then he smashed the windows on his 32nd floor suite, and began firing for 12 minutes.

Paddock murdered 59 people he did not know and against whom he had no grievance. How did he come to be a man who treated fellow humans as vermin? And does this say something about our civilization?

In "The Brothers Karamazov," novelist Fyodor Dostoevsky has his character Ivan say, "If God is dead, all things are permissible."

What Ivan meant is that if God does not exist, the idea of God's law, of heaven or hell as reward or punishment, is nonsense. And if it is, there is no man-made law that can deter men who have decided to "end it all."

Consider. Nevada has a death penalty for the mass murder Paddock was preparing to commit. But as he had already decided to end his life after shooting scores of innocent people, no death penalty or any other threatened state punishment could deter him.

Why not carry out his atrocity and end his life knowing that, within days, all of America would know who Stephen Paddock was?

In Shakespeare, Hamlet declares, "Conscience doth make cowards of us all." And so, fearing damnation, Hamlet recoils from ending his life or exacting revenge on the king he believes seduced his mother into complicity in the murder of his father.

In Stephen Paddock, the conscience was dead. He was a dead soul, a moral nihilist, a post-Christian man in a post-Christian age, a monster.

Yet, we are going to see more such men, for we no longer have a convincing answer to that oldest of questions, "Why not?"

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Patrick J. Buchanan is the author of a new book, "Nixon's White House Wars: The Battles That Made and Broke a President and Divided America Forever." To find out more about Patrick Buchanan and read features by other Creators writers and cartoonists, visit the Creators website at www.creators.com.

Copyright 2017 Creators Syndicate Inc.
 

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