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Politics

Just a guy and the search for meaning

Kathleen Parker on

From the relative comfort of one's television-viewing perch, numbness begins to set in. We've seen this before, heard the commentary, witnessed the overwhelming grief. Columbine, Orlando, Blacksburg, Newtown, you know the list.

The Washington Post's website offered headlines that were all too reminiscent of past tragedies elsewhere: "The lives lost in Las Vegas"; "Gunman was ... known for keeping to himself"; "10 ways politics may -- or may not -- change after the Las Vegas shooting"; "'I felt the gunfire would never stop.'"

Monday night, America went to bed shocked at the numbers. Twenty-two thousand revelers, 23 guns in the shooter's hotel room, at least 59 dead, more than 500 injured. Tuesday morning, we checked the numbers again to see if they had changed. The names, faces and short biographies of the dead scrolled across television screens. They were slaughtered by the usual suspect -- no one in particular.

He was "just a guy," said the shooter's stunned brother, Eric Paddock. Neighbors delivered their script: He seemed like a regular person. Normal, you know. A gun dealer who thought he may have sold Paddock some of his guns said he didn't seem unfit or unstable.

But he was obviously something. A bad seed. Sick. Evil. Why had Paddock peered out of his 32nd-story hotel window and decided that this was the night he would kill as many people as possible? By chance alone, he would not kill Claypool or Fine -- and they'll live with that surreal, taunting reality the rest of their days.

"We get to live," another survivor had said to Claypool when they chanced upon each other the next day. Yeah, Claypool said, we get to live. But why? To what end? For what purpose?

Such are the questions that have stumped humankind since first consciousness made life fathomless. A random bullet from an unseen stranger brings the unbearable mystery into sharp focus. Why me? Why not me? Why at all? In the absence of answers, faith and hope intercede and the search for meaning becomes a more-manageable quest for summation.

Lisa Fine, her face drawn from lack of sleep, reached through the numbness and offered the best one could: "Love your loved ones, and be the best person you can be. That's all we've got."

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Kathleen Parker's email address is kathleenparker@washpost.com.

(c) 2017, Washington Post Writers Group

 

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