Friday, April 20, 2007

"This will be Virginia Tech in 5 days"

So someone--a student, presumably--scrawled across a mirror in the girls' bathroom in Monticello High School (a small town near Champaign-Urbana). This is probably just one of many such threats that will appear across the U.S., and most if not all of them will be baseless. Still, school officials will take every threat seriously, as they should. But every time this happens, copy-cats, or wannabe copy-cats, are encouraged. Because they all want attention.

There was a very interesting editorial in The Guardian by Lionel Shriver, the author of We Need to Talk About Kevin, a novel about an American school shooting told from the perspective of the shooter's parents. Of the school shooting rampages, she wrote

Why do they happen? If it does not sound too tautological, campus shootings keep happening because they keep happening. Every time one of these stories breaks, every time the pictures flash round the world, it increases the chances that another massacre will follow. In the main, all of these events are copycat crimes. Campus shootings are now a genre, much as, in literature, campus-shooting novels are a genre, one of whose entries I am guilty of writing myself. They are part of the cultural vocabulary, and any disgruntled, despairing or vengeful character - of any age of late, since grown-ups now want in on the act - now has the idea of shooting up a campus firmly lodged in his brain.
She writes that she would prefer that the Virginia Tech gunman remain anonymous, although she acknowledges that this would be impossible. Still, she has a point. And she makes one last point worth considering:

For America's federal government to take gun control seriously, nothing less than mass armed insurrection is required. Were the public ever to act on the principles of their own Declaration of Independence, for example - "That whenever any Form of Government becomes destructive ... it is the Right of the People to alter or to abolish it, and to institute new Government" - Congress would shut down the gun industry in a heartbeat.

Food for thought.


Gail Rost said...

This is the issue - gun control. Of course mental health and our inability to address it as a culture and as a moral responsibility is also a very important missing link. Have there been so many campus shootings that it is now a "genre"? I am not sure I agree with that. I think its bigger than that - the "normalization" of shootings - the desensitizaion of a culture turning on itself as if its inevitable and there is nothing we can do.

slatta said...

The campus shootings have become a genre, I think, only in that it has become so predictable: disaffected, alienated youth, turns to violence. Senseless killing. By now, we all know how to respond. We're getting pretty good at the grief.

Not so good at the solutions.

I really do hope that if something good is to come of this whole awful thing, it will be a serious re-thinking about our attitudes towards guns. I'm waiting to hear something meaningful from our presidential candidates.
I must say, I think that NBC really did not have to post those videos of Cho. I think this is where the journalists should have drawn the line.

Anonymous said...

You know I would prefer that if something came of this it would be our reconsideration of mental health. I'm not thrilled about the proliferation of guns in our society but more importantly, I'm shocked that someone with the many psychological problems this young man had could be ignored by everyone and their third cousin for so long.

The one thing I've learned from all this is that the only time the mentally ill do seem to get attention in the US is when they kill somebody.

How said is that?

Colleen aka Chasing Ray