Saturday, December 22, 2012

Mark Steyn on the Slaughter of the Innocents

Another great piece by Mark Steyn on the great sadness in Newtown. DECEMBER 21, 2012 4:00 P.M. The Massacre of the Innocents The Newtown killings ought to occasion a little modesty and circumspection. By Mark Steyn Mark Steyn ‘Lullay, Thou little tiny Child, by by, lully, lullay . . . ” The 16th-century Coventry Carol, a mother’s lament for her lost son, is the only song of the season about the other children of Christmas — the first-born of Bethlehem, slaughtered on Herod’s orders after the Magi brought him the not-so-glad tidings that an infant of that city would grow up to be King of the Jews. As Matthew tells it, even in a story of miraculous birth, in the midst of life is death. The Massacre of the Innocents loomed large over the Christian imagination: In Rubens’s two renderings, he fills the canvas with spear-wielding killers, wailing mothers, and dead babies, a snapshot, one assumes, of the vaster, bloodier body count beyond the frame. Then a century ago the Catholic Encyclopedia started digging into the numbers. The estimated population of Bethlehem at that time was around a thousand, which would put the toll of first-born sons under the age of two murdered by King Herod at approximately 20 — or about the same number of dead children as one school shooting on a December morning in Connecticut. “Every man a king,” promised Huey Long. And, if it doesn’t quite work out like that, well, every man his own Herod. Had my child been among the dead of December 14, I don’t know that I would ever again trust the contours of the world. The years go by, and you’re sitting in a coffee shop with a neighbor, and out of the corner of your eye a guy walks in who looks a little goofy and is maybe muttering to himself: Is he just a harmless oddball — or the prelude to horror? The bedrock of life has been shattered, and ever after you’re walking on a wobbling carpet with nothing underneath. For a parent to bury a child offends against the natural order — at least in an age that has conquered childhood mortality. For a parent to bury a child at Christmas taints the day forever, and mocks its meaning.

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