Sunday, December 16, 2012

Speaking the unspeakable

'Unspeakable violence' is a well worn phrase, and, clearly, there is an extent to which certain violent acts prove to be difficult, if not impossible, to entirely put into words.

However, while never capable of complete expression, there are some moments when violence becomes, if you will, 'speakable': when words allow certain aspects of it to be driven home with a particular emotional intensity.

I found, today, in looking through various kinds of press coverage of the massacre at Sandy Hook Elementary School, that the two comments that made the horror of this particular incident of horrendous violence most speakable were not those deliberately aiming at the highest degree of pathos but rather those that seemed most matter of fact or spontaneous.

Both were in the same article, at the Washington Post.

First, the comments from the state medical examiner, H. Wayne Carver II:

Carver described the children’s injuries, which he said ranged from at least two to 11 bullet wounds apiece.

He had performed seven of the autopsies himself. A reporter asked what the children had been wearing.

“They’re wearing cute kid stuff,” Carver said. “I mean, they’re first-graders.”

Second, though more significantly in some ways, I was struck by the comment of Rabbi Shaul Praver, whose congregation included one of the first grade victims:

“His little body could not endure so many bullets like that.”

Reconsider that, just a bit longer: 'His little body could not endure so many bullets like that.'

I wish, in some way, that I could un-read those words, as they have been echoing in my brain all day.

But, to my mind, there is something in Rabbi Praver's words that prove that the unspeakable can indeed be spoken.

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