Let me start by extending my heartfelt sympathy to the students and staff at VA Tech, and the parents and friends of all those killed and injured in that horrible string of events. It is something that will certainly give us pause, and hopefully cause us to once again reflect on the fragility of life.
I’ve waited to write about this until some of the dust settled, and I saw how it all played out on the national stage in the media. Unfortunately, I’m not surprised at what has gone on. Once again, all the talk is about all the things that can be done to prevent it from happening again. I’ve seen ideas from the reasonable to the absolutely absurd, but we tend to be coming down more on the side of the absurd and ridiculous. Newt Gingrich, after blaming it all on liberals and the McCain-Feingold campaign finance reform bill (go figure), has decided this would never have happened if all the students on college campuses were armed. (Remember, this is a guy considering a run for the Whitehouse.)
The pundits have gotten on the 24 hour news channels to spout off about how they could have easily seen this coming … about how Cho’s writings and behaviorÂ made it clear it wasÂ going to happen. On NPR’s Sunday Edition,Â English Professor and Commentator Diane Roberts has a compelling pieceÂ reminding us thatÂ some of the greatest authors, including the Bard himself,Â used some pretty horrific story lines. She cautions against having teachersÂ police the imaginationÂ of students. Please listen to the short essay hereÂ»Â It’s a voice of sanity midst the chaos.
Everyone is up in arms about how he purchased bullets on eBay. Â So what, bullets have little value without the guns from which to shoot them. A few people are clamoring for tighter gun control, the NRA and other gun lobbies are wisely laying low for now, but they’ll charge to the front lines when legislation is proposed, and little will change. We can only hope. Certainly, given that Cho had been adjudicated “unstable” should have prevented him from purchasing guns … on the other hand, I’ve seen lots of people that could legally purchase guns that shouldn’t be permitted to own them.
This is a tragedy to be sure, but does it really merit the incessant analysis by pundits on 24 hour news channels? I’ve seen studies showing that even after this event, students remain significantly safer on a secondary or post secondary campus than in the communities in which they live. This is much like everyone’s fear of plane crashes. They are certainly headline grabbing when they happen, but even on the day of a plane crash, usually more people are killed in auto-accidents. They just don’t get the press.Â
The night after the shootings, I was flipping channels. Larry King was reduced to interviewing some VA Tech student who thought she might have heard gun shots that day. I suspect most of the hand-wringing is the result of the fear mongering brought on by the need of the news networks to fill up their 24 hours, and this makes for good ratings. So, throw on the pundits and the ex-FBI profilers, of which there have been many, along with a horde of “mental health professionals” (now there’s an oxymoron…I’ve only met one of those that wasn’t in great need of some mental health services themselves), and they all contend they could have predicted this would happen, and if we read and analyze everything everyone writes, observe how people dress, all this can magically be prevented…we’ll lock ’em up before the crime is committed, ala “Minority Report.”
But alas, I find myself not the least surprised by all this. The Republicans still play to their base on social conservative issues, but they know it’s becoming less and less politically feasible to side with the krazy kristian kooks as they become all the more crazy, so fear becomes the political currency of choice. More and more people could care less if gay people get married…they are in some places, and lo and behold, the sun still rises. But we can all feel fear, and we can be made even more fearful with the right words and constant haranguing about all that’s wrong today, and all the dangers that await us just outside our door.
Look, life isn’t always pretty. We are never going to be totally secure, despite thinking the government can protect us. Shit, the government can’t even efficiently purchase toilet seats, and you want to trust your life to them? What a bunch of wimpish idiots we’ve become. There are tons of reasonable things we can do to make the world more safe: seat belts; x-raying bags and metal detectors at airports, background checks for gun purchases; prison for people rightfully convicted of evil acts; traffic lights; building inspections; airplane maintenance. None of it will prevent a plane from crashing some day, someone getting killed in an auto accident, or someone getting murdered somewhere. I, for one, more fear my government intruding increasingly into my life than I do the risks of daily life. Locking down college campuses, policing the thoughts and writings of people, attempting to SPOT terrorists using pseudo science is feel good bullshit that does not increase security and safety, and only inhibits the living of life.
Sure, we can make ourselves secure. We could build bunkers and hunker down without venturing out of the house or driving. We can filter our air and drink only bottled water, and never interact with the world around us….is that life you want to live?
I am sorry this kid went crazy. It’s not a hard thing to do in today’s society. Maybe he just never made the adjustment to our society, or maybe there was just a chemical imbalance that no one took proper notice of. But we don’t rush out and change our entire post-secondary educational system and the rest of society because of one nut…and we certainly don’t arm college students Newt. The answer is simple, love deeply those around you and let them know it, help the people around you, give a shoulder to those that hurt, and get on with living life…with all it’s hurts, risks, excitement, boredom, love, hate, tears and joy.