Victims of Friday's night "The Dark Knight Rising" attack were on my mind as I walked through Budapest this weekend before flying back to the States. Hungary is a country tortured throughout the last century, and it is home to the haunting "Shoes on the Danube Promenade" memorial to scores of Jews shot into the river on January 9, 1945, after being ordered to remove their shoes by the fascist militiamen of the "Arrow Cross."
Budapest has chosen not to forget its murdered citizens. Good for Budapest. The world needs many more such memorials to many presently forgotten victims.
Yale professor David Gelernter wrote on Saturday about Aurora in NationalReview.com: "The only fitting response to a crime like this is silence or prayer." He is right, so instead of that specific attack on defenseless innocents, a few words about the long, horrible line of victims they join.
I wrote at Townhall.com last week about a visit to Vienna's Stadttempel which survived Kristallnacht and the Nazis but which was again attacked by Abu Nidal's terrorists in 1981. My visit there came the day after a terrorist, believed to have been sent by Hezbollah, killed Israeli tourists in Bulgaria, and the day before a terrorist of a different sort murdered so many in Colorado.
CNN International, for the past two weeks, has been a long reel of explosions and mayhem from Syria as that evil government slaughters innocents and the world whistles a Russian tune.
My trip began in Amsterdam, where Anne Frank's house is among the most visited destinations in the world, and included a stop in Bratislava, Slovakia, which features an exhibition that includes a massive statute of Stalin in front of the Esterhazy Palace -- a very odd acknowledgment of the Georgian butcher who murdered so many millions. Perhaps Vladimir Putin understands that eventually, history can rehabilitate anyone.
I didn't intend to take a tour of memorials to victims or the people who killed them, but Europe is crisscrossed with them -- though the guides are reluctant to point to the specifics. ("Where did the tanks fire on the civilians?" I asked my guide in Heroes Square in Budapest. "Far to the west from here," she replied with a nonspecific wave of her hand.)
America has its geography of horror of course, stretching in recent years from Oklahoma City and Columbine to San Francisco and Virginia Tech, and now back to Colorado. There are many other tragic stops along the way, including state-sponsored violence against whole peoples and races. Many other massacres occurred long before these modern atrocities -- killings and riots that claimed Native Americans, blacks, Catholics and Mormons, to name just a few.
The awful history of our country in the 1800s, of Europe in the 1900s and of the Middle East forever (but in a rapidly rising tempo right now) should warn us that only strength deters killers. Lone deranged gunmen will be stopped only by men and women with weapons drawn and ready to use.
There isn't any escaping evil in our country or this century, as we ought to have learned on 9/11 and which we learn again and again. People have to turn in the crazies and free governments have to suppress the fanatics and the terrorists they employ. There isn't any utopia coming that will breed the evil out of humanity -- not until after the end of times.
But we can, as individuals and as a nation, condemn the killers and not the victims. We can do that which is possible to stop as many such massacres as possible, with clear-eyed determination and resolve, backed by strength, focused on the real evil-doers, and undiluted by pablum or false accusations of complicity.
Examiner Columnist Hugh Hewitt is a law professor at Chapman University Law School and a nationally syndicated radio talk show host who blogs daily at HughHewitt.com.