etumukutenyak: (Default)
I firmly believe that our difference of opinions is one of the things that makes us strong. By observing and discussing from all sides of a concept, argument, or debate, we can ensure a stronger and more complete response. This country was founded by people who like to argue, with concepts derived from intense debate. From every point of view, they crafted a strong set of documents that still have meaning in our everyday lives. This means that it is entirely acceptable to not agree -- and still be right. Having a difference of opinion doesn't make the other person wrong. Conversely, if the facts are such that the opinion is unsupported, then the other person is clearly wrong -- and that's ok too. Life still goes on.

I firmly believe that when people who disagree start calling each other names that they have lost their entire argument -- for they have lost my respect. If you cannot support your side without descending to name calling, then you have clearly identified yourself as someone without anything to contribute, other than anger. You will never find the terms "moonbat" or "wingnut" in my LJ. Plenty of manly men eat tofu and shoot weapons. Plenty of strong women stand up for themselves and take no guff from idiots. Once you start calling the other side by some epithet you are no longer capable of responding to the argument, only to emotion. YOu are no longer able to discuss something, only reject them.

I firmly believe that no matter where you stand on the gun issue, it is not the important point of the VT shootings. The killer was clearly following the existing rules, and there was no way to stop him from buying a weapon. The killer clearly had a plan, and was not going to be swayed from it. Regular people buying weapons are not unduly obstructed from buying them by having to wait 7 days for a background check, or 30 days for another handgun. Who's in a hurry? The range will wait. I have no issue with buying guns for self-defense or for competition shooting. Guns are simply another tool in life, albeit one with a fairly limited range of options. A wrench can be used in so many ways, or a knife, or a laser. Still, any one of those can be deadly. It's not the gun who kills, but the person pulling the trigger.

I firmly believe that the children in the classrooms who ran from the gunman are not deserving of any hateful diatribes. Spewing anger about cowards when you were not present is beyond acceptable. Ranting about how the body counts could have been lower if someone had been carrying is missing the point. The point is, the killer had a plan and was carrying it out, no matter who got in his way. Even if the body count had been lower, it still would have been a shocking and awful event.

I firmly believe that we need to stop being inappropriately angry at the people who survived. They did nothing wrong, except choose to attend an early morning class on a day when a killer carried out his insane plan. Many of them were shot before they could react. Many of them responded to the threat by protecting their classmates even as they bled. Running from a gunman shooting people around you is not cowardice, it is protection, and it is your ancient hind-brain at work, moving you away from the threat.

I firmly believe that today we need to put aside all our thoughts, feelings, opinions, rants, and arguments. We need to wear our maroon and orange, and we need to think of beginning the healing process. Governor Kaine has selected the panel to review the incident, hoping they will find some answers to the main question: "How can we prevent this in the future?"

The answer is, we won't -- this isn't a uniquely American pathology, as others have pointed out around the web; this is unfortunately a uniquely human pathology. There must be some combination of genes, personality traits and environment that create this kind of individual who is so filled with rage and so incapable of getting help that they choose only to snap in a burst of rage and then die. Mother Nature does cull them from the population, but in their final rage-filled spasm they take others who don't deserve to die.

We can't prevent such horrors from happening. We need to understand that. Life is risky. Not all that long ago children didn't always live longer than their parents. As we grow more expectant of such luxuries as health and long life, we should remind ourselves that life is still fragile and risky. We choose which risks we focus on, and then obsess over the wrong things. Breast cancer kills 40,000 women each year; cardiovascular disease (heart attacks and strokes) kill 400,000 women each year. Which one gets more attention?

Today we should think about reaching out to our families and reminding them of our love. We shouldn't take life for granted. We shouldn't forget to hug our our loved ones
and say those sappy sentimental things that Hallmark prints on its cards. We should hug a warm puppy or buy some roses. We should splurge on a nice dinner out or call up some friends to come over for pizza and beer. We should say hello to strangers, and thank people for holding the door. We should walk outside and enjoy the weather, no matter what it is, for it means that you are alive to see it.






ETA: Making Light has a thread on this subject, with some very reasoned responses: http://nielsenhayden.com/makinglight/archives/008867.html

Thoughts

Apr. 18th, 2007 08:10 pm
etumukutenyak: ("Dammit)
Now that the initial horror is fading, the post-mortems begin. The questions being floated in the mass media -- of the police response, for the 2 hour delay, the gun purchases, the clear signs of wrongness displayed by the killer -- most are missing the point or blaming the wrong people.

First, the killer: it's clear from reports that many students and professors reached out to him, only to be stymied by his stonewalling. You can make him go to counseling, but you can't force him to get well. This kind of person needs to be identified early, if only for tracking. You can't simplify this into "all kids who say bad things go to the psych ward", as many young children don't know what the deeper meaning is behind such words as "I'll kill you". It's just words that make grownups react and give them more attention, which is the point of such words to young children. Older kids, teens and college students, would be expected to know the deeper meaning and from them this kind of language -- or any language of violence that is out of proportion -- should be identified. This kind of person should not be buying guns, even if they don't have a criminal record.

There was probably nothing wrong with his family. This kind of personality disorder goes much farther than mis-parenting or any other alleged mistreatment. Many people grow up in dysfunctional homes and most of them don't kill anyone.

Second, the initial killing: it should never have been described as "just a domestic". I don't know whether the inital police response was this cavalier, or if that was the media's interpretation. Violence should not be less important for having been targeted at a woman. The police do play the odds, and odds are you're more likely to be killed by someone in your family/household. When a young woman is violently murdered, the police do think first of a boyfriend. However, the campus should have been notified sooner of the first murders. It would not have stopped classes, but it might have made someone more alert in the early morning, and possibly the killer might have been seen on his way to Norris Hall. It's only a possibility.

Third, the time lag: it's now clear that the killer went to the post office to mail videotapes of himself to NBC; the time stamp on the package was 45 minutes after the first shootings. Now we know why it took him so long to get to Norris Hall. My thought here is, why didn't anyone see him on the way in? He was ostensibly carrying chains and closing the doors. Did no one really see that? What if there had been security cameras on the classroom buildings, on the entrances? Could someone have then seen an odd behavior and sent police to check it out? In a public place we don't have an expectation of privacy, so the anti-camera people wouldn't have a legal way to stop that.

Fourth, the use of guns: the natural response of many people is "if only those kids could have been carrying!". I disagree. I firmly believe that guns are tools and should be used by qualified personnel, but they should not be in the hands of the majority of people. We should not be re-arming all citizens, or we'll end up in the Wild West with people shooting one another over the slightest of misperceptions. Remember that most people are jerks without intention; in other words, we often don't intend to do something wrong and piss off others, but we do every day. I'm sure other drivers have been irritated with me just as I have with others. Adding guns to the volatile mix of every day irritations and annoyances doesn't make for a safer society, it just makes for busier morgues and homicide detectives. You don't think so? Ask a police officer or homicide investigator. They're usually quite against arming the populace.

I have no argument with carrying a gun or rifle in situations where called for -- such as being out in the wilds, surveying, or walking/driving in high crime areas where you might well be a target (such as a mobile veterinary practice: money and drugs). Guns are tools. Learn to use one properly, get licensed, and follow the rules.

Let's consider cars in comparison: how many people each day are killed by cars? Large numbers, to be sure. Do we have strict licensing laws governing use of automobiles, training in the use of said autos, traffic cops who monitor for violations, etc? Oh, sure. We also have insurance policies that go up each time we have any accident. But do we have calls for tighter auto controls each time people die? No. Do we make stricter training and longer waiting periods mandatory? No. Do we mourn each time youngsters die in needless traffic accidents? Yes. Do we wear our seatbelts? Not if we're the Governor of New Jersey we don't.

Cars kill plenty of people. It's not the cars, it's the idiots behind the wheel. Guns are used to kill plenty of people. It's not the guns, it's the idiots behind the trigger.

We need to do more than just mouth platitudes about tighter gun control -- certain restrictions do make sense, as do the criminal records check. We don't want to make it easy for felons to get guns, and we do want to punish those who misuse them. However, when someone is determined to get a gun and kill people, we aren't going to stop them with restrictions on gun sales.

We need to stop them before they get to the point of reaching for a gun, or failing that, identify them as they begin their rampage and stop them. We need to teach our kids that violence is not the answer to their problems. Video games are not the problem, but perhaps they are a symptom of the underlying fascination with guns and violence in the US. Rap music is not the problem, but the underlying misogyny of the rappers is another symptom of wrongness. Women are not targets, and should not be treated even jokingly or "artistically" as targets.

And when someone is identified as so wrong that classmates won't come to class and the tutor has to have a code word in case of trouble, then that person should not be released from the psychiatric hospital without the university taking other steps to protect its students. That person should be identified so when he attempts to buy a gun -- or poison, or explosives, or any other item that he should not need -- it will be flagged and stopped.

*****
Holocaust Remembrance Day (Yom Ha-Shoah) started after sunset on Sunday April 15th, ending at sunset on Monday April 16th. It is rather fitting that a Holocaust survivor ended his life on Yom Ha-Shoah, and did so in saving the lives of his students. We will never forget the name of Liviu Librescu, teaching his students before the attack.

Civil and environmental engineers study ways to improve our lives. We will never forget the names of the engineers who died in their classrooms: Brian Bluhm, Matthew Gwaltney, Jeremy Herbstritt, Jarrett Lane, Partahi Lumbantoruan, Dan O'Neill, Juan Ortiz, Minal Panchal, Julia Pryde, Waleed Shaalan, Maxine Turner. Henry Lee was studying Computer Engineering. Professors GV Loganathan and Kevin Granata were teaching in the classrooms.

International studies is a leaping pad to greater things in the fields of history, politics, foreign service, and more. We will never forget the names of Austin Cloyd, Daniel Perez Cueva, Caitlin Hammaren, Lauren McCain, Erin Peterson, and Nicole White. Others were studying foreign languages for other reasons, or were in math/computer science class, or never even made it to class. We will never forget the names of Ross Alameddine, Ryan Clark, Rachel Hill, Emily Hilscher, Matthew La Porte, Michael Pohle, Mary Read, Reema Samaha, and Leslie Sherman. Professors Jamie Bishop and Jocelyn Couture-Nowak were teaching in the classrooms.

Some of these were children, just beginning college. Others were seniors and graduate students, or established professors. (That's a good indication of the devotion to teaching: seeing people who were clearly well-established in their fields teaching an 8 am class, and not leaving that to a graduate assistant.)

Let's focus on the people who survived, too. I cannot imagine a greater guilt than having survived a violent attack when others around died. Those children need support at this time.

And those are my thoughts.

ETA: Kevin Granata was not teaching, but heard the shots. He put students into his office and saved their lives, then lost his in an attempt to stop the gunman.

Today's Washington Post has an excellent article on the entire story, beginning with the 5 am wake up of the killer.

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