Wednesday, April 18, 2007

Why I Am Not Going to Write About Virginia Tech

Virginia Tech massacre memorial on the campus ...Image via Wikipedia
I really did not want to write about this incident.  There are no words that can express the senselessness, the tragedy and the unmitigated evil of such an event as we all had to witness just a couple of days ago.  I'm not very good with words of condolence.  Most of them ring empty, trite and unconsoling to me.  While we all wonder what's in the mind of a person who not only wants to commit suicide but he wants to take random strangers with him,  I'm beyond wondering why things like this happen in our world.  I accept that they just do. I mourn when they happen.  I grieve for the families of the victims and for our nation and for Cho Seun-Hi.  As a self described Zen Christian Universalist, I've found myself alternately wishing for a hell for the shooter (temporary but something where he could appreciate the pain he has caused) and praying for peace for his obviously tortured soul.  But, I really wanted to leave this to others to dissect. I've seen this incident written about on every blog I've been on in the last couple of days.  They all expressed their ideas much better than I can.  I was determined not to write about this unless I had something different to say.  So, I guess I think I do have something different to say.

I've been drawn into some discussions on one of my boards and I just have to express my thoughts on this.  I sense in this tragedy a search for answers and for control.  We want to know what went wrong, whom to blame and we want to make sure it doesn't happen again.  Well, I don't think that's possible and I think we all need to learn to accept that.  I've heard staunch NRA supporters screaming "See, that's why we need more guns in citizens' hands.  If the students had been armed, they could have taken the gunmen out and less people would have been killed." To which I reply, that's a big "if".  What we do know is we have pretty lax gun laws now.  And, even if Virginia did have a concealed carry law, how likely is it that a college student would carry a gun to class?  And, do we really want to encourage everyone over the age of 18 to carry a weapon with himself 24x7? We want to encourage more people of this age to carry a weapon that can take a life in an instant and with the twitch of a finger?  I hear people on the other side of the debate saying "See, this is exactly why we need tighter gun controls.  If this guy had not been able to get the guns, he couldn't have killed all those kids."  C'mon, in this country awash in guns, you don't think this bright kid could have gotten his hands on a gun if we just had tighter controls.  He was over 18, no criminal record and was in our country legally (for 15 years).  What type of gun law would have stopped him from getting his hands on a gun? Nothing short of an outright ban on handguns all together or a ban against non-citizens buying guns would have stopped him. And I don't think his citizenship status had anything to do with the shooting. I've heard gun proponents say "It's a good thing he was able to get the guns, otherwise he might have used bombs and more people would have been killed."  No, I'm not kidding.  I actually had someone say that to me.

The reality is this tragedy isn't about gun control at all.  I don't think it's a clear cut case for or against stricter gun control.  We can suppose all we want. But, guess what boys and girls, if a crazed person wants to kill a bunch of people randomly, no law we can pass or precautions we take are going to stop him.  While that doesn't mean we don't take reasonable precautions; it does mean that I'd rather live my life worrying about dangers that have some reasonable potential to happen than to worry about something so statistically improbable.  I am not about to start carrying a gun with me everywhere just in case I hit the mega-million lottery of bad luck and end up in shopping mall with a deranged person.  It just doesn't happen every day.  That's why we are so fascinated by it when it does.   I prefer not to live my life in a siege mentality. And, as bad as some think society is, it's going to have to get a lot worse before I do.

Another blame game people are playing is "Why didn't someone stop him before he struck?"   There were indications that Mr. Cho was imbalanced.  More reports about his bizarre behavior are coming out as I write this.  And, while I myself say that I think we all need to take more responsibility for each other, it's crazy to blame anyone for not being able to foresee that he would go to this level.  Disturbed high school and college students write sick stuff every day.  While this doesn't mean we should ignore that behavior or not seek help for them, most of us (maybe none of us) can really predict which one is going to go off and take it to the next level.  I've had friends that have been severely depressed.  I take very seriously the advice I've been given about what you should do if someone threatens to commit suicide (take them seriously). But, when a dear friend told me that she didn't know if she wanted to live anymore and that she was thinking about how nice it would be to be free of her worries and she wouldn't mind if she had a car accident and didn't survive what could I really do?  I took her threats seriously.  I talked to her.  I asked her to get counseling.  But, that's about as far as you can go with another adult.  While I believe we are our brothers' keepers, I also know that we are limited in how much we can control what another person does.  In this world, we sometimes have to accept the fact that stuff happens.  We can't control everything- particularly the past.

So, I say all of this to say this.  Please let's not use this as fodder to support our particular side of the gun control debate. While we have a serious issue to work out there, I see extremely little relevance to what happened on Monday.  What I do I see in this particular incident is how little hope there is with coming up with an answer to the gun violence problem any time soon.  The very attitude that allows completely opposite sides of the issue to look at this tragedy as the ultimate case to prove each of their points of view shows just how biased people are and how they will use anything to support their preconceived notions.  I also say let's not cast blame.  It was a tragedy, a horrific, unavoidable tragedy.  Let's all mourn, comfort each other and accept it for what it is.  We can't control everything. I am shocked and saddened by this.  And right now I just want to be shocked and saddened.   I will use this to help me remember that this is a wild, crazy, beautiful world we live in and we need to cherish each precious moment and take care of each other.

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