But educators should know something about history. Because this is an old story and has its roots in a tragedy every bit as compelling as Sandy Hook School. The story of Lindisfarne.
An island connected to northern England’s coast by a tidal causeway. A holy place, in fact its name today is Holy Island and 1300 years ago it was Christendom’s most prominent experiment with what we today would call a Gun Free School Zone. But what happened there should have proved for all time that covering one’s eyes, pretending that demons don’t exist, that you’re somehow “better than that”, is worse than futile. Criminally worse.
Lindisfarne was a monastery, renowned for its non-violence, dedicated to learning, to the idea that in the tumult of the early Middle Ages, man could, should be, was “better than that.” Gloriously “better than that.” And for a while people believed along with them in this “right message” and endowed Lindisfarne with riches, sang its praises in ten thousand churches.
Its ruins today are still a beacon atop a spire of high rock, surmounted by sheer stone walls, far above the everyday concerns of this world.
But they are ruins because one dark in the eighth century Lindisfarne’s rock and walls were scaled by Vikings holding their swords in their mouths. Demons out of the northern seas who chased the unarmed monks from room to room in the monastery, butchering them for sport, sacking their golden altar and trampling their precious books underfoot. An event which shook Christendom to its core.
Why did it happen? Quite simply because the killers were drawn by the defenselessness of the place, by Lindisfarne’s “right message”, by the fact that Lindisfarne abjured violence and trusted as school administrators trust today, in never looking the lion in the eye.
Above all by the fact that Lindisfarne would not suffer the presence of armed men who might defend it.
Today most of us don’t even remember that there once was such a place. Even though we keep repeating the same mistake it made. We don’t remember what we should have learned then; that weakness will, sooner or later, summon horror.
As Adam Lanza was summoned to Sandy Hook School.
There is more and it is worth the time to read it.
The nature of humanity hasn’t changed in thousands of years; wishing away evil is just as useless now as it was centuries ago.