a citizen’s journal by Thomas Nephew

Let’s make sure we learn nothing from Blacksburg

Posted by Thomas Nephew on April 19th, 2007

The odds are that absolutely nothing will result from the Virginia Tech tragedy, except maybe some backbiting about when to sound the alarms on a college campus when a shooting happens. Yet if Cho Seung Hui had known Virginia Tech could successfully “lock down” its campus at the first sign of trouble, he’d have just attacked Norris Hall first — or picked some other place off campus to launch his sick bid for glory.

I’m guessing the gun culture and lobby is too entrenched to allow even mildly stricter standards for gun buyers and owners. Do the mentally ill have a right to own guns? Do the rest of us have a right to know they can’t? The sane answers are no, and yes – even within the strict parameters of the Constitution, since Cho was not part of a “well regulated militia” by any stretch of the imagination. Of course, we can count on that being ignored in whatever limp debate about gun control our curiously incompetent culture conducts in the weeks and months to come. Yet we’ll go on being shocked into numbness every few years as some new massacre eclipses the old one: University of Texas, Columbine, West Nickel Mines, Blacksburg.

So be it, then. These massacres are therefore inevitable tragedies, and “second half of the Second Amendment” zealots effectively want it that way — as Glenn Reynolds‘ bizarre prescription of more guns on campus vividly demonstrates. But a word to Reynolds, the NRA, and their allies: please, please, please spare me your “this is awful” comments next time. You own the political landscape on this; now own the results.

2 Responses to “Let’s make sure we learn nothing from Blacksburg”

  1. Paul Says:

    It’s interesting to note that Palestinian suicide bombers are characterized as deranged members of a sick, “death-cult” society, while Americans who commit mass murder and then kill themselves are considered aberrations.
    Both are essentially the same type of act, just different means of accomplishing it. In fact, there are more instances of mass killings in America than in Israel and the occupied territories.

  2. Thomas Nephew Says:

    I guess one has a recognizable political agenda/cause, something ostensibly being accomplished, while the usual US suicide killing spree doesn’t. It’s arguable which is sicker at that rate. But they’re extremely similar, you’re right.
    Funny you mention “death cult.” I was actually thinking of that phrase during some of the “Operation Homecoming” stuff on PBS the other night — but re the veneration of the US war dead and their use by some as a sufficient justification for continuing the war. “They shall not have died in vain” was tied to a “new birth of freedom” by Lincoln in the Gettysburg Address. Not so — avowedly not so — in the interview with and writing of John McCary spotlighted in that broadcast. It was just (paraphrasing) “we must carry on”, but the unspoken part was ‘regardless of the wisdom or necessity of the mission.’ While I think McCary means only himself and his platoon (or whatever) by “we,” that “we” can all too easily come to mean the whole country. That way lies a kind of death cult too: more fresh dead for the old, cold dead — loyalty to the fallen above all else.
    That in turn reminds me of hilzoy’s comment: “Violence is not a way of getting where you want to go, only more quickly. Its existence changes your destination. If you use it, you had better be prepared to find yourself in the kind of place it takes you to.”
    Sorry for wandering off your point, which I hope others will engage better than I have. Circling back, we’re certainly no less prone to murderous craziness than any other culture or country.

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