Thursday, April 19, 2007

The Shooting

As you might well imagine, blogs on the left and the right have had quite a bit to say about the Virginia Tech shooting over the past three days. In fact, they started having quite a bit to say about two hours after news of the shooting broke. The responses that I saw were all of one variety or another. Pro-gun sites blamed the lack of guns for the massacres. Anti-gun gun sites blamed the presence of guns for the massacre. Both sides attacked the other for using the issue to make a political point. Some bloggers lamented everyone's willingness to jump to conclusions, claimed self-righteously that they would not do the same thing, but couldn't help but slip a little bit of their own opinion on the "why" of it at the same time. Some didn't. In fact, it hardly seems that anybody could write more than one sentence about the issue without giving away what they felt was (or wasn't) the cause of it, and what exactly we ought (or ought not) to do about it. And then there were the just flat-out plain stupid responses.

Of course, the cultural conservatives blame evolution, same-sex marriage, co-ed dorms, the failure to teach the Bible in school, etc., etc., for the shooting. Liberals seem to take the opposite tack with their unwillingness to blame the shooting on anything more than a failure to adequately control guns. What I haven't seen so far except here and there, is a willingness to blame the violence that permeates our culture. We tolerate incredible amounts of violence in our daily lives, and especially in our entertainment. Children watch violent cartoons at a young age, and violent movies before they're old enough to know better. They grow up acclimated to stories of violence in the news, to gratuituosly violent TV shows and movies, video games and music, and to celebrations of violence in popular culture. They don't think there's anything wrong with it, which is why they in turn take their kids to violent movies that they're too young for. Our culture is awash in violence, and liberals and conservatives seem not to think much of it.

We also accept that people can be alienated from others in a way that was probably not possible in earlier times. We see someone who is disturbed, we hear someone utter dark thoughts, we see them alone and seemingly uncared for, and we say nothing. We think they're "weird" and we leave them alone, or we make fun of them. Reportedly, people tried to warn others about the young man who committed these killings. Their efforts went nowhere. In truth, we just don't think much of people who seem to become completely disconnected from society. That's just the way it is these days.

And yes, there's something wrong with a culture in which people who are angry, depressed, homicidal or prone to violence, can get weapons which allow them to kill dozens of people at a time, or their wives, or their kids, or themselves. Yes he could have poisoned someone, yes he could have stabbed someone, yes he could have set a building on fire, or driven his car into a crowd. But without guns, he could have never trapped people in a buildling and killed them so quickly and efficiently.

So what's my solution you ask? Well, like most people with strong opinions about something, I don't really have one. I don't know what we should to do remove the stain of violence from our culture. I don't think banning violent movies is the key, and I don't think not letting kids play with toy guns is the key. I think we have to want to destroy our fascination with violence, guns and power, but I don't know how you bring that about. I don't know what to do about the profound alienation that some people experience, though as liberal I do believe that government ought to try to provide (or lead others to provide) the stability that family and friends no longer do for some people. I don't think guns should be as easy to get, though as a Texan I'm perhaps inclined genetically to think that if people want them, and want to carry them around, then maybe they ought to be allowed long as they're willing to wait awhile to get them, and we agree that some people shouldn't be allowed to have them at all.

I do know that unless we're willing to talk about everything that contributed to this shooting, even the things that seem to be embedded in our culture, we're never going to hope to prevent this from happening again short of installing security guards armed with machine guns at every location, public and private. Unfortunately, I'm pretty pessimistic about that happening. In fact, I interpret the unwillingness to talk about it, the sheer absence of any discussion of it, as our willingness as a society to tolerate one shooting like this after another as the price we pay for who we are. We're free to make that choice, but we ought to at least be willing to talk about whether it's worth the cost.

UPDATE: Note, the world can see about us what we refuse to see for ourselves.

UPDATE II: Here's Scott Horton, with some more of the world's opinion:

Around the world, America is being portrayed as a land of wanton violence, obsessed with firearms—as the locus of a bizarre death cult. The grounds for this are not simply what happened at Virginia Tech and Columbine High School, but the way the American public has reacted to these tragedies.

Don't get me wrong. Just because people in other countries says it, doesn't mean it's true. But, enough of them are saying it that we really ought to pause and wonder if they're seeing something that we're not seeing about ourselves.


adam said...

I agree 100%

Faisca said...

I just noticed that you linked to my blog in this post.

Just wanted to clarify, that I didn't go and "self-righteously" say I wouldn't take part in talking about it and then go provide my own "why."

I was actually just pointing out the inevitable fact that people are going to jump all over VA Tech to promote their own agendas. I was proven right, was I not?

And, just wondering from a curious point of view, how was it that you came across my blog? I don't get linked that often.

Xanthippas said...

You're right, but the point I was trying to make is that some bloggers would use the opportunity to point out others who were jumping all over the issue in the hours following the shooting, and in doing so would intentionally or unintentionally reveal their own point of view on what caused the shooting. "Self-righteously" might be a harsh way to characterize it, but the point I was trying to get across is that writing about the shooting in such a way that you lambast others for what they're writing about the shooting, is a little...well, iffy. I'll leave it at that.

That being said, that does not mean that I don't agree with you on some of the targets you picked. I just decided that writing about them wouldn't be the main point of my post. Though like everyone I have my own ideas, as my post makes clear.

I found you doing a google blog search.