17 April 2007

Bleak America

The massacre at Virginia Tech yesterday was ... well, there isn’t really a good word to describe the terror those poor students and their instructors must have felt as the gunman cut them down.

Thirty-three dead. One of them was the shooter himself. He was only 23 years old, obviously lost in the throes of serious mental illness. It’s just unutterably sad.

Such dark events, I believe, are as unstoppable as a hurricane and probably as unpreventable. I’ve read a lot today on the web about this story. Some people are yelling about gun control, others that if guns had been allowed on campus, someone could have killed the gunman before he took so many lives. I don’t go with that, personally. Give more people guns, more people will be shot. Likewise, tighter controls on guns don’t seem to work very well, either.

If someone is ill enough to seriously plan a mass murder of innocent people, then he’ll find a way to do it. Guns are just one option.

My heart aches for those who were injured, those who died and for their families and friends. My heart aches, too, for the other students who were terrorized, who will have to come to terms with what they experienced and saw in those classrooms. They’ll be haunted for the rest of their lives.

But this disgusts me:

Spirit of Self-Defense [John Derbyshire]

As NRO's designated chickenhawk, let me be the one to ask: Where was the spirit of self-defense here? Setting aside the ludicrous campus ban on licensed conceals, why didn't anyone rush the guy? It's not like this was Rambo, hosing the place down with automatic weapons. He had two handguns for goodness' sake—one of them reportedly a .22.

At the very least, count the shots and jump him reloading or changing hands. Better yet, just jump him. Handguns aren't very accurate, even at close range. I shoot mine all the time at the range, and I still can't hit squat. I doubt this guy was any better than I am. And even if hit, a .22 needs to find something important to do real damage—your chances aren't bad.

Yes, yes, I know it's easy to say these things: but didn't the heroes of Flight 93 teach us anything? As the cliche goes—and like most cliches. It's true—none of us knows what he'd do in a dire situation like that. I hope, however, that if I thought I was going to die anyway, I'd at least take a run at the guy.

Derbyshire is a chickenhawk, all right. I’d go a step further and call him a chickenshit.

Someone needs to sit him down and explain, slowly and carefully, the difference between real life and what he sees on television and at the movies. Shame on him for inferring that those students, scrambling for their very lives, many of them probably frozen with shock, were cowards. What sort of person would say such a mindless, despicable thing?

Well, John Derbyshire of NRO’s The Corner did.

As Derbyshire crows, beating his idiotic chest and believing he’s got it in him to be Bruce Willis in Die Hard XI, it somehow hasn’t sunk into what passes for his brain that the shooter’s .22 handgun – and .9 mm Glock automatic -- killed 32 people and injured 18 more in a very, very short time. He may play with a .22 at the gun range, but it’s clear it’s just a stupid prop for his dangling manhood.

But hey, John, you’re right. None of us knows what he or she’d do in “a dire situation like that.” Nevertheless, I’m going to make an educated guess that like anyone else without formal military or police training and months of preparation for a sudden, horrible situation “like that” you’d react instinctively: You’d duck for cover or run. And while you did it, you’d soil yourself. It’s only human.

I am further disgusted by the fact that there are people who are trying to blame the massacre on the fact that the gunman was South Korean. What gross bigotry.

Cho Seung-Hui was a permanent resident of the United States. He’d lived here with his parents since he was 8 years old. He went out of his mind and he bought two guns and he killed people with them. News stories are reporting now that he’d been a loner, he’d written material in a creative writing class that was bloody and violent and that his instructor had referred him to counseling. It’s possible he was being treated for depression with medications.

It’s just a terrible, terrible tragedy. His poor parents.

Over at Salon.com there’s a story about other South Korean VA Tech students who are afraid now that they’ll face the same sort of knee-jerk retaliation that Arab-Americans have faced since 9/11. Some are afraid of going back to school. Some were even afraid to attend the memorial service held today on the campus, fearing that they would be associated with the killer because they share his nationality.

What does it say about America that they feel that way? If the killer had been a Caucasian, would the white students have felt they needed to stay away?

I mourn for those young people and their families. And I mourn, too, for what we’ve lost as Americans. Since the turn of the century we seem to have become a nation full of craven John Derbyshires.


Wil Robinson said...

"If the killer had been a Caucasian, would the white students have felt they needed to stay away?". I don't know that I would expect any different.

Our country has no history of being tolerant of anyone that is different. The majority cliques (white, Christian, etc.) seem to make the rules, and everyone either is part of the clique or wishes they were. Anyone different is treated, well, different.

It's not limited to the United States - but that's the problem. I thought America was the "shining city on a hill," the example for the world of how democracy and equality can coexist and thrive. I grew up believing that America was the exception.

A couple of weeks ago, a British citizen living in Tokyo was followed to her home by a Japanese man, and then killed. He put her in a bathtub on his porch after she was dead and buried her with sand. The police initially caught him - but he managed to escape...not sure what that says for Japanese police.

Anyway, the story got coverage for a day or so, but quickly disappeared. Completely. They haven't yet found the killer, but it hasn't gotten so much as a page 10 clip in the newspapers since it happened.

When a Japanese citizen is murdered, the story gets covered ad nauseum for months. Every day, a picture of the victim is put on the TV screen as the news updates you on some aspect or another...the families grief, the trial, the suspect's motives, etc. After all, murder in Japan is pretty rare.

But when a white person is murdered...it is quickly forgotten.

As a point of reference, three American and Canadian citizens who taught English in Tokyo were arrested a couple of months ago for "dealing drugs." (They had 1 gram of Marijuana...not exactly a dealer's stash). The story was huge. Plenty of people talking about how evil foreigners were, and how they brought shame to Japan and to their own countries.

It works the same, I think, no matter what country you are in. The difference is, I still believe America can be the shining city on a hill, and that we must strive for something different. America is the example, and when something tragic like the Virginia Tech shooting happens, we are being tested.

In the face of such tragedy, Americans must rise up and overcome their natural xenophobias and bigotry. That is the true test of democracy and equality.

Unfortunately, as you point out, many people fail that test.

Kevin Wolf said...

Derbyshire's idiotic column is merely the latest in the continual flow of such crap from right wing websites and blogs. It's astonishing that anybody would read this junk, let alone agree with it.

I do think, given Derbyshire's target in this particular case, that he could use an Imus-style time out. Still, I'm not holding my breath waiting for the NRO to take any action.