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