A Crime, Not a “Tragedy”

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Shooting At Washington DC Navy Yard Reportedly Leaves At Least One Wounded

Many media commentators reflexively described the Navy Yard shooting in Washington, DC as a “tragedy”. This designation amounts to a sloppy, misleading abuse of language. September 11th wasn’t a tragedy, nor was the Holocaust; these were crimes, the product of evil intent and willful choice.

Natural disasters like earthquakes or epidemics that kill millions count as tragedies, because the suffering resulted from no wicked purpose. Occasionally, major wars (like the Civil War) can also qualify as tragic, when soldiers on both sides serve through a sense of duty, not vicious bloodlust. But when a killer, or a group of killers, decides to murder innocents out of sheer love of violence or demented ideology, moral clarity requires denunciation as a conscious—and evil—crime.

That crime may have tragic elements, but the guilt of perpetrators shouldn’t be ignored or dismissed.

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Comments (3)

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  1. J  •  Sep 20, 2013 at 5:26 pm

    One definition of “tragedy” I found: an event causing great suffering, destruction, and distress, such as a serious accident, CRIME, or natural catastrophe.

    I don’t know about this. Bill O’Rielly attacked Obama for using the word “tragedy” to describe the Boston Bombing, and now Michael Medved is also criticizing those who use the word to describe a “evil” crime, but the word does not have a rigid, fixed meaning attached to it. This being the case, I would be weary in making these assumptions about what other people are thinking based on the use of a word that has a wide array of connotations. Of course, it would be nice if all pundits and politicians would actually define their terms, like every college graduate has been forced to do many times, but that’s never going to happen–and if it were, it would mean no vague, confusing, potentially misleading campaign slogans like “Change” and “Morning Again in America”.

    • Marie Taylor  •  Sep 21, 2013 at 4:41 pm

      We tend to shy away from the word evil, why? Perhaps many do not want to admit that it exists. By saying tragedy it puts it into the light of hurricanes, accidents etc, things we have no control of or an act of God. But evil does exist and in many cases something could have been done to prevent it.
      Could we have done something to prevent the holocaust, the death of 56,0000 babies, the Ft. Hood murders, so many other acts of premeditated evil? Yes, we as a society could have and if we don’t start to act as “a nation under God” it will continue.

  2. Mike Kailing  •  Sep 20, 2013 at 11:12 pm

    A tragedy in normal street language and conversation points to a very sad event which causes much suffering, human misery, unexpected deaths. In my opinion, criminal murder is a tragedy not only to the victim but also to the remaining family members and friends. Not all crimes are a tragedy if only property damage or loss occurred. Tragedy is a term to explain serious human events causing pain, mental anquish, and horrific deaths. For example, the genocide now occurring in Syria is not only an on-going crime, it is a national tragedy. No one would diminish its tragic consequences to its people, government, neighboring countries, and overall morale. Crimes can be labeled tragedies when mass senseless murders occur. Tragedies can be human caused and natural occurrences, ie, storms, floods, hurricanes, tsunami devestation, all bringing human deaths and lingering pain. The key point: capital crimes are an example of tragedy; they are not accidents which can also be labeled a tragedy. See the radio active fallout in Japan – a national tragedy, not a crime. In summary, context and content of an event will determine the use of the word – tragedy. I try not to engender debate or argument, just clarification and intended meaning. Aloha ~ brother mike

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