Turn the dial this way and that, and it's all the same -- the same separate but equal banalities you hear after every one of these dreadful things, this time even before all the dead in Aurora, Colo., have been given a decent burial:
"... the solution here is to redouble our efforts to expand mental health programs on campus and throughout our sick society, because we are all responsible for these crimes and...."
"... the trouble with you wishy-washy, bleeding-heart liberals is that you don't understand the need for law and order, the way things were done in the Old West. Instead you get all hung up on technicalities and in the meantime these nuts are running all over the country shooting people down and when they do come to trial if they ever do, we give 'em all lawyers and abolish the death penalty. What would John Wayne do? I ask you. What this country needs is good old vigilante justice but, no, instead it takes years to put 'em away. We don't just string 'em up the way we used to, and save the taxpayers...."
"... sick and tired of you bible-beating red-state neanderthals who can only think of one answer to violence and that's more violence, which only encourages more violence. It all starts when you beat your children and teach them that...."
And so tiresomely on. And on and on. The country's president and his likely opponent this November both understood what they needed to say about the carnage in that movie theater in Colorado last week: very little.
Barack Obama and Mitt Romney expressed their sympathies and cancelled any further campaign events last Friday -- and took their political ads off the air in Colorado. At least for one blessed day. There are times when silence speaks loudest and best.
After all such horrors, whether at Killeen, Texas, or Aurora, Colo., or a middle school in Jonesboro, Ark., a surfeit of psychological theories and politically convenient explanations breaks forth. They fill the air like a buzzing cloud of Job's Comforters descending on the innocent mourners with all kinds of reasons this happened here.
As if there could be some better explanation to be had than that man is a fallen creature, and some of us fall even lower than the rest of us sinners. As if John Calvin's observation that man is capable of total depravity needs any further evidence by now.
The airwaves and blogs now overflow with wordy static, but at such times it is not theories but help and comfort that are needed. And, perhaps most of all, our silent presence. That may the best and in the end only assurance the rest of us can offer. The way Southerners know to appear at a house of mourning with a plate of food -- nourishment for the soul as well as the body.
Now once again, the whole nation is a house of mourning and all of us should be comforters, not accusers.
Let us hold on to this: There are still good people, kind people, dutiful and competent people who suddenly appear when needed, who make not just a profession but a calling of it.
Let the rest of us add to their number. By our words and actions. And perhaps most of all by our quiet presence, and silent assurance that we are here. People are hurting -- our people, however far away they may be.
The families that have been rent, the friends who in their shock still have not yet absorbed the extent of what they have lost, the survivors who are still struggling for their lives, the people of Aurora, ... they all need to know: They are not alone. And the rest of us need to let them know it.
For there are still good people in the world -- police officers, ambulance crews, doctors and nurses and just bystanders who rush to do what they can, the healers of all professions and persuasions. Let us recognize them, and back them up every way we can.
At such times, when it is hardest, and when it is best, let us keep the faith -- and the good thought:
Finally, brethren, whatsoever things are true, whatsoever things are honest, whatsoever things are just, whatsoever things are pure, whatsoever things are lovely, whatsoever things are of good report; if there be any virtue, and if there be any praise, think on these things.
And hold fast to them. Now and always.