Bell Curve The Law Talking Guy Raised by Republicans U.S. West
Well, he's kind of had it in for me ever since I accidentally ran over his dog. Actually, replace "accidentally" with "repeatedly," and replace "dog" with "son."

Monday, April 16, 2007


Though more lethal massacres happen somewhere every day, on this day, from Le Monde, to The Age (Australia), to Al Jazeera, to Xinhua (China), to Der Spiegel, to La Nacion (Argentina), to the BBC, it is the slaughter at Virginia Tech that shocks the world. I cannot put it into words yet, but somehow, against the numbing senselessness of it all, that seems a comfort.


Raised By Republicans said...

The Danish press seems to be presenting a theme of confusion at this strangely American phenomenon. The story from Politikken ran with a time line not of the event itself but of past shootings on schools - going back to Kent State and before. The under text of the story seemed to be that Americans are inherently violent and this is just one more incident proving it.

I must say that our society clearly has a problem. While there are attacks on schools in other countries, the US seems to be a tragic leader no matter how we measure it.

We should take this opportunity to think about how we got to this point. We should think about how we provide mental health care, how we control guns (1 gunman shot over 60 people killing over 30!), how our police respond (most of the people were shot two hours after the first shooting and there was no police attempt to secure the campus despite the fact that the shooter was on the loose).

This is a tragic tragic event. And I fear that as we learn more, it will get uglier and uglier.

Raised By Republicans said...

The headline for Politiken is currently (rougly translated) "Bush Still Opposes Gun Control Law."

Everyone in the world can see the link between our complete lack of gun control and this kind of tragedy. But Bush and his cynical cronies don't or won't.

Dr. Strangelove said...

No, on the contrary, they are arguing that if someone on campus had been permitted to own a gun (VA Tech was a legally designated gun-free zone) then someone could have shot the guy and saved lives. Astounding arrogance. What it really shows is that local gun-free zones around schools just don't work--you need to ban guns across the state.

Dr. Strangelove said...

Oh, I was agreeing with RbR in the last comment. I just read it again and it might sound otherwise--sorry!

Raised By Republicans said...

Right, as our old friend, Dr. Von Brawn, said on the phone last night, the clear Republican response will be to insist the professors pack heat.

Anonymous said...

Having grown up in Tasmania, which I think held the previous mass shooting record until this event, I have a great deal of sympathy. Australia had good gun control until a trade agreement let in semi-automatic weapons. A knee-jerk response to the Port Arthur massacre meant guns at all levels were bought back and destroyed, which won no support in rural areas where feral animals are an issue. The stable door was left open.

In the US there is obviously a different problem given the prevalence of weapons. That is not going to be something your can remove. For example while I was living in LA I did a handgun course because I had never fired a gun. The point that alarmed me was after firing weapons where the instructor stated that you need to think about where to have weapons in your house and maybe have two or three in strategic locations! How can you remove so many weapons?

More importantly is possibly a change in the culture of the US. Violence is acceptable on TV, and yet sex and hence love on TV is bad? And then instead of a reasonable image of sex you get some plastic Valley version of it. Where is the grounding in reality?

Spotted Handfish

The Law Talking Guy said...

It's pretty clear that the shooter at VATech just went out, bought some guns, and went shooting. He should not have been able to do that. If guns were outlawed, this outlaw would NOT have had a gun. If guns were more expensive, this student could not have afforded to buy one. Most criminals do not buy guns illegally, but buy them legally. It's cheaper and easier. Make no mistake about it, the VATech shooting happened because a disturbed person had easy access to cheap guns.

If guns are restricted, will they disappear immediately? No, of course not. But guns aren't like drugs or alcohol. They aren't easily manufactured by black marketeers, and they don't feed off addiction.

My suggestion: make the bullets super-expensive. Tax the crap out of bullets (say, $50 each?), ban their importation, etc. More than one person has remarked that if bullets cost $50 each, there would be far fewer shootings.

USWest said...

Great idea LTG! But what do you expect from the nation that is the number one arms dealer in the world?

RBR, I wish the Danes would take note that the shooter wasn't American (although he had been here since he was 8 years old). And can anyone tell me why Canada, with all its guns, doesn't have shootings? I would point out that NPR’s website had a similar timeline of shootings dating back to Kent state.

While I don't fundamentally disagree with what anyone has said here . . .what bugs me, as usual, is the non-stop, breathless coverage with the overly-dramatic headlines. I was in the gym yesterday and got to see CNN. I don't have cable at home (this type of coverage is one reason why), so this always surprises me. NPR was nearly as bad.

Explain to me how parents who have just lost their children can sit with Wolf Blitzer like nothing happened and go on and on? And I am sorry, but I don’t feel grief. I think it is horrible. I think it is sad. But I don’t know anyone involved. I don’t know about the community where it happened. And I am not going to pretend to be devastated as the media would like. Nor am I surprised. This is now an unfortunate part of the American landscape. This is what happens when you have a society that is overly militarized, overly exposed to violence. And the current media coverage this shooting doesn’t help.

I don't care about what dead student number 3 liked to eat for breakfast. I don't care to hear that we have 33 "heros". It is the kitschification of disaster all over again. It is a twisted form of pop-iconology. I hate it and it pisses me off every time.

Now we will go through the rounds of the "investigation", then the investigation of the investigation, the investigation of how the media covered the story, then the media’s mea culpa over how it handled the coverage, etc. We will find that the shooter was crazy. We will know this when they publish excerpts from his writings. Then we will hear how despite the warning signs, no one could do anything. Then we will do the flotilla of stories about what the warning signs are and how to protect "your family" from such a person.

And guess what all this does? It makes people even less trusting of others; it will make them even more afraid, encroauges the siege mentality that people already suffer from. This further drives those fragile people among us into deeper solitude, alienation, and depression that may eventually boil over into another violent outbreak. And then we will do the whole cycle all over again.

I, like Jon Stewart, repress and move on. Giving the entire country PTSD doesn't solve anything. It doesn’t change anything.

The Law Talking Guy said...

To sound very pomo for the moment, let me suggest this. As a post-Christian society, we have eliminated all ritual for mourning from public life. The main "Christians" - the fundies - are also largely ritual-free. Liturgical ritual is meaningful for only a very few. When these terrible events happen, we have no ability to "sit shiva" as a nation.

But the human need to sacralize time and space in these moments remains undimmed. The Gettysburg Address is a classic response to that need. The monuments all over Gettysburg field attest to it as well.

The 24 hour CNN coverage is the result. We feel the need to do something more than turn the page and read the sports scores. But without the ability to do what the Spanish did (hold a national mass), we are left with ad hoc rituals. In LA, it is common now for Latinos to put "in memoriam" messages on the backs of their pickup trucks, and in both the Latino and black community they make up T-shirts. These do not satisfy. So we keep wallowing in the tragedy until it has wrung enough out of us.

JFK's public funeral was perhaps the last time the USA was able to use a grand ritual to sacralize a moment.

In the UK, it was Diana's death. In fact, I suspect that part of the spectacle of Diana's funeral was that it subsumed enormous amounts of grief that had never had public expression before.

We hunger to sacralize moments like this because it will relieve us of the need to carry them. Instead of some great national ceremony where all work stops for a day, we stumble on with endless news stories, unwilling to let the tragedy go until, finally, something else knocks it off the front page. And we remain vulnerable to the charge that we have forgotten.

In many ways, that hunger is what happened on 9/11. With no single national situs of mourning, we filled our need at a thousand pitiful attempts at ballparks and schools. I had two such moments. One was at church on the morning of 9/12. The other was at the National Fireman's Memorial at Colorado Springs four days later.

The nation stumbled to war in 2003, cynically manipulated by those who knew the weight of guilt for not having "done enough" about 9/11. That guilt is manipulated at every airport, and when they take away habeas corpus. And those who manipulate us so know the power of the offer of release: Mission Accomplished.

The 2006 election was so profound because the public was really expressing that it was ready to put 9/11 in history and move on. Four years of war in Iraq was enough penance. Time to go home.

USwest said...

LTG, I think you raise a very good point and it is a well thought out answer. I also find it ironic that the same sense of isolation that is implied in your message is what produces people like the shooter in Virginia.

My mother has this habit of sort of whining about things. It is a hint that she wants help, but doesn’t know how to ask for it directly. I think this is analogous to what is going on here. In a climate of pessimism, war, insecurity people will tend to see big stories like this as having national significance. They are scared. They don’t have any leaders who are telling them what they need to do to contribute to the prevention of such things. What people really want to know is what is happening to us as a nation that these things go on. This outpouring of public grief comes from a generalized sense of powerlessness. I also think that a lot of people are projecting their private struggles onto these events.

In past wars, for instance, every person knew what he or she could do to contribute. Americans like to contribute, to take actions. But now, no one knows what to do and when they ask, they are told to keep shopping. THIS is what the story should be. And THIS is what I hope it will become. It’s about the lack of leadership!

I just don't see the shooting in Virginia as a national event. It is a local event. I know t his point is arguable. I know that sounds cold, but to me, it is a crime that took place on the other side of the country, right near Washington. 9/11 was national. JFK's death was national. Pearl Harbor was national. Soldiers killed in Iraq are national. A guy goes postal in his L.A. office killing 15 people, and it is a news story. A guy kills a bunch of Amish girls and it’s a local event. People shake their heads and move on. Yet it is just as tragic, and in some ways, more so.

Raised By Republicans said...

What really shocks me (and makes me pretty angry actually) is that a young man who had a record of being committed involuntarily was able to buy two semi-automatic hand guns and all the ammunition he could legally.

Virginia's "instant back ground checks" clearly are a joke.

Republicans in my current home state (thankfully in the minority!) reacted by demanding that all safety officiers on all state campuses be required to carry weapons. I saw a lot of M-16s on CNN at Va Tech and they didn't do any good. But this is the Republican solution to everything. Fear mongering and add more guns. The entire party must suffer from micro-phalia.

USWest said...

For those Citizen's who work at campuses, especially campuses that have a shooting in their history, has there been any noticable fall out from the VA shooting?

I am struck that despite the interventions on the part of mental health officials, professors, and even his parents (who had him committed at one point, not an easy thing for a Korean family to own up to), why he was allowed on campus at all. He had been judged to be a danger to himself and to others by a court. He has been treated and was supposed to be in outpatient care.

I thint aht no matter how well you build the trap, people will still slip through and things like this, tragic as they are, will happen. That is just how it is.

Anonymous said...

Well, if you banned every suicidal student from coming on campus you'd have a serious shortage of TAs. A high percentage of PhD students suffer from depression and a shockingly high percentage have contemplated suicide ( )

Leaving aside the issue of whether he should have been let back into school, they let him buy guns!! Keep in mind that dismissing from school would not have made his problems go away or prevented him from doing exactly what he did anyway.

We will never be able to prevent 100% of the people like this from trying to kill people. What we can do though is determine what kind of weapons they have when they finally go over the edge.


USwest said...

Yes, and NPR answered my question about Canada . . . they have gun laws, but lots of guns and increasing gun violence.

I also don't think much more could have been done by mental health officials. Shit happens. That's really all you can say. But I still agree with LTG: make the bullets hella expensive. There is more than one way to skin a cat.