I'm sitting a my computer reading everything I can about the horrific events that unfolded today at Virginia Tech. Only a few hours have passed, the gunman's identity is still unknown, the number of casualties continues to mount, and already people are trying to assign blame, play politics and make sense of it all.
It didn't take very long for Gather to post a poll on gun control, and conspiracy theories on terrorism abound in internet chat rooms. Poltics and psychobabble. American violence vs. European peacefulness. "Guns don't people, people kill people." Colleges are filled with mental illness and the pressure to succeed. And I hate to even imagine what conversations we will be having if the gunmen's racial idenity is confirmed to be Asian (the current rumor.)
It is natural to struggle and grasp to make sense of this horrific massacre. But I think the reality of these situations is that they are inherently senseless, and any kind of politcs we try to play as a result of it is reactive and ultimately unproductive.
People can decry the violence of modern times; however, the most deadly school massacre, and most deadly of any massacre in US history occured on May 18, 1927, almost exactly 80 years ago. And the attacker did not have a deadly assaut weapon, he had dynamite. Dynamite was also used for a school attack in 1959.
Michael Moore will have you believeÂ that Americans are more violent than their peaceful northern neighbors in Bowling for Columbine. He must have forgotten the 14 women massacred in Montreal in 1989 and couldn't have predicted the 1 dead and 20 injured there in 2006. Not even EuropeÂ is immune, and eight children were killed in Japan with a knife. Even the Amish aren't safe!
People talk about the pressures of school and the oppression of peers in Columbine, but sometimes people are just plain old mentally ill, like in the infamous Charles Whitman shooting where he killed 15 people at the University of Texas with a rifle. In his will Whitman donated money to the mentally ill, requested an autopsy, and a massive tumor pressing against his amygdala was discovered. Or sometimes people are not mentally ill at all, theyÂ just simply don't like Mondays,Â like Brenda Ann Spencer, who, yes, is a woman, because we can't generalize about male violence either, and sometimes women kill too.
It's perfectly natural to try and intellectuallize what happened today at Virginia Tech. It's comofrting to believe that we might have some control or some ability to prevent these diasters, but I'm not sure that we can. And too often, I believe politicizing these events, generalizing about killers and colleges, and spewing psychobabble can distract us from stopping, breathing, and mourning the loss of 32 innocents today.