DAILY CATHOLIC    FRI-SAT-SUN     April 23-25, 1999     vol. 10, no. 80


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          Today's article was written by R. Kenton Craven, Ph.D., who goes by Ken Craven. Ken is a Catholic writer who presently lives and works in the Sultanate of Oman. He writes a column on Islam for the Day Star Tribune, a nondenominational Christian newspaper in West Virginia, which is his home state.

          He also pens the TRUE WEST series which is a private publication circulated among friends such as John Hamlon of St. Ignatius Institute and a few others in "catacombs" here and there.

          He is presently working on an extensive piece on what it is like to be a Catholic in Oman, where the American version of the renewal has not infected the real purposes of Vatican II.

          Today's article is a follow-up to his article a little over a week ago on Dungeons and Dragons.

A Real Horror Movie: "The Corrector Cometh"

by Ken Kraver

          Since I wrote "That's It: Dungeons, Dragons, and Devils," TIME magazine has reported that Father Tadeuscz Rydzyk, a Redemptorist radio personality in Poland, has called Bill Clinton "an ancient serpent." Thank you, Father. As the serpentine coils slip from the NATO misadventure in Eastern Europe, America may become aware of how deep Clinton's darkness is.

          The colorful, seductive coils of unreason have also been falling away from the dragon's attack on Columbine High School. As the event first unfolded, the rolodexes whirred as media dragged in the robots of the academic world--including a sociologist priest--to explain the mass murderers. As expected, they were said to be alienated, deprived, misunderstood.

          As the facts began to come out, such explanations explained nothing. These two boys were healthy, normal, social, and responsible by outward appearance. Both students had two parents of means, both achieved academically, worked at jobs, dated and attended dances, and "interacted meaningfully" with teachers in classes where they undertook special projects. They wanted to get university degrees and had learned to use the Internet creatively. Their presumed rights of speech, behavior, and privacy had been fully protected by the school.

          Indeed, by being members of the Trenchcoat Mafia, they merely mirrored the social standards of the X Generation as set by singers like Marilyn Manson, writers like Anne Rice, artists like Mapplethorpe, and countless members of the artistic and intellectual class who think it trendy to belong to New Age cults, Satanist religions, or the Gay community and its innumerable subsects.

          As the investigations continued, more rationales broke down: the majority of the killing was caused by legal sawed-off shotguns, not by automatic weapons. What Aquinas called the "material" cause" of the crime could not be the explanation. Neither, as revealed by the autopsies, were the boys on alcohol or drugs. Neither was the crime the result of an explosion of pent-up pressure: the murders were cooly, meticulously, and unhesitatingly planned a year in advance.

          The killers' one instance of deviant behavior, the burglarizing of the van, actually strengthened their normal image. Their performance as the perfect social worker clients earned glowing commendations from mental health bureaucrats who were impressed by their intelligence and drive, characteristics which, in isolation, may be imputed to all the scaly race.

          As for Eric Harris being on a tranquilizer or antidepressant while under counseling, this is precisely what all the correctors prescribe for any child feeling anything other than self-satisfied daily complaisance. It would be difficult and self-contradictory indeed to see students being in mental health care as both the problem and the solution. Yet, that is the contradiction most moderns hold.

          As a college professor, I have known college students among whom it would have been an offense against propriety not to be under psychiatric care, and when I worked in Washington, DC, it was said that your status is measured by how many removes you are from power and by the recognition of your shrink's name.

          So the suburban health index points to the child and his parents as responsible members of the therapeutic community--only those insensitive Marines didn't buy it. Somehow, though, a licensed shrink listened to Eric ramble and dissemble without recognizing anything wrong with his psyche that Prozac would not fix. But what if he had? Contacting anyone about it would have been an infraction of many rules and laws.

          It's also unlikely that the shrink would have counseled Eric on his obsessions with Marilyn Manson and the movies Matrix and Natural Born Killers. How could he? As one TV head said, Manson has several platinums! And as we know, the movies in question are rated as artistic and commercial successes. Moreover, the last place in America in which any kind of standard will be upheld is the shrink's office, where relativism is the first principle.

          As Paul Johnson argued in the first chapter of his History of the Twentieth Century, the problem of the century is relativism, the belief that there are no objective moral standards and that any belief is as good as any other belief. I've had thousands of college students--and professors--argue the same. Any college professor who argues the contrary will soon be in the street.

          Desperate as the counseling card did not play well, the networks reached finally for geneticists who would affirm that these boys were psychopathic from birth, thereby relieving us from any changes of behavior at home or school. Solution? Well, in the future, you see, we'll be able to detect these problems in the womb or even before and can prevent the pregnancies or abort them. Without standards, there is only power, and the whole point of power is to use it.

          The handy metaphors of the media--deprivation, pressure cookers, lack of conditioning, insufficient counseling, violation of individual rights of children--had all failed. And they had all failed because in a relativistic universe, no one measure is better than another.

          "All the instruments agree," as the poet W. H. Auden wrote, "[that] had anything have been wrong, we would have heard." Auden's point is that the instruments our society devises to measure what is wrong are themselves fundamentally flawed. The externalist measurements of the Pharisees failed time and again to measure the Absolute Goodness that spoke to them without guile. And even the disciples fail at measuring evil. When a demon will not obey their commands, Jesus tells them that "this kind is cast out only by prayer and fasting."

          While the media continue to flail about in search of an explanation, the devils in the dragon's bureaucratic division of Correctness snigger and guffaw at the foolishness of a people without God, reserving special hilarity for the liberal Christians of every denomination who explain the faith away as a kind of nice psychological approach to life's problems.

          Similarly, if the diagnoses all fail, the remedies proposed by the Correctors--metal detectors, social workers for all children from birth, more counseling, more gun control, more conditioning of children by politically correct educators--all deconstruct on contact with the hard facts of that grisly day when two boys laughed riotously as they shot their schoolmates in the face.

          Following the Correctors come the Slippery Sliders. The Slippery Sliders follow the strong comments of Bill Bennett and Judge Joe Brown with "I agree," and then lisp out sinuous analyses that change "give the students strong moral standards" to "instill the children with appropriate sensitivities" that include allowing any student to do anything in the name of privacy rights. Evil doesn't miss a trick, does it? "The serpent tricked me," Eve whines, lying.

          When satan tempted Eve, he used no tricks more clever than those of most salesman. He simply displayed the goods attractively. Looky, pleasure, power, pride. "These things sell themselves," a Missouri car salesman once told me. "You don't need to add nothing." The implication is that you, the buyer, are smart enough to understand the benefits.

          What satan also did is make himself look appealing to Eve's curious mind by appearing to be wise. Enter, the politics of spin.

          As recounted in Acts 13: 11-17, the dragon, having failed at destroying the Woman, goes to war with her offspring. In the first recorded instance of spin control, the Beast of the Earth transforms itself to appear unanswerable, invulnerable, and universal. The poetic depictions of dragons and serpents by great writers (Milton, Spencer, Dante, Tolkien) invariably depict the devil as a wizard with words and imagery.

          Word wizards with much practice in sophistry, the Correctors teach the ultimate spin--that they can cure society's ills without spiritual regeneration. They range from the abortionist to the psychological manipulator to the secular educationist to the final Corrector, Dr. Kevorkian, who brings to the last sacred journey the correctness that the moderns want for the first. The Correctors believe what the sophists of ancient Greece believed, that "man is the measure of all things."

          The evil of Stephen King and Anne Rice, two of the writers worshipped by the Goths, is the evil of nasty little boys and high school toilets. When questioned in front of the Goth Club about her fascination with such things as sucking blood, a girl angrily and obscenely replied that "these things are ok, these are just things that kids do, we have a xxxxx right to these things, all right?" (Or words to that effect). We've all encountered that kind of evil when we were in school; now we get it daily everywhere. A boy just up our street enjoyed picking on smaller children, torturing animals, pretending to be a Nazi, and throwing firecrackers at others, but no one in our community defended his right to be a satanist, sadist, or bully on the grounds of freedom of expression.

          It is clear that dragons, serpents, and devils of all kinds work on the imagination. They must love a society in which it is possible to sell anything (and anyone) through seductive imagery. Eric Harris and Dylan Klebold thrived on the imagery in which lust, hate, and murder appeal to the appetite for power. The probability is that you have seen the scene in Natural Born Killers in which Juliette Lewis leans out a car window and shoots an innocent motorcyclist with a shotgun, then laughs and says "I always wanted to do that."

          Though Harris and Klebold saw thousands of other similar images since they were children, surely this is one of those that appealed to two young men who ran wildly through their halls shouting "who's next? Who wants to die?" I am certain that many PhD's will leap to argue that the image is educational because it shows you where such thinking leads. Many, indeed, argue that the film is anti-violence. No more, I would say, than a movie about an abortionist who gets high on killing babies, then does a partial-birth abortion and says, "I've always wanted to do that!" And Jack Kevorkian? What would appeal to him, a Marquis de Sade murder of one hundred hospital patients at once?

          Aeschylus, Sophocles, Euripedes, the great Greek tragic dramatists, dealt with every form of human evil and depravity, as have other great poets and writers, from Conrad to Flannery O'Connor. They understood a basic principle of horror: don't show it. All the violence in Greek and most other tragedies takes place off stage, as in the horrible scenes in MacBeth and Hamlet. The alternative is the Roman arena; the citizens of Rome, sick with power, grew sicker on endless blood and screams.

          The imagination is for something, it has a use in the divine economy. God appealed to the imagination of the Jews throughout their wanderings to create images of the Promised Land; Jesus told parables; Bach, Handel, and Mozart wrote symphonies and oratorios; the great builders built the cathedrals; the great poets spoke to our desires for the true, the good, and the beautiful. But it can also be used in that dark moment of the soul when the killer looks at what he is about to do and says, yes.

          Cassie Bernall looked into a loaded gun pointed in her face and heard a question, "do you believe in God?" Knowing she was about to die, she expressed everything that she was, a person whose life was an open prayer, and said, "yes."

          That, C.S. Lewis told us in The Abolition of Man, is why the imagination must be educated in homes and schools that understand good and evil and teach young Harrises and Klebolds that some things are sick, wrong, and evil.

          Even now, however, heedless of reasoning like Cassie's, the Correctors are coming to fix our schools. Now there is a true Horror story.

May 4, 1999       volume 10, no. 87


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