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Calculated Response

Preface: I am pride myself on being a logical and methodical analytic thinker. I think that’s why I enjoy programming so much: computers think something like I do. (On a side note that’s wholly inappropriate to the tone of this piece, has anyone else considered how incredibly poorly implemented the brain’s data types and pointer references are? Forget RAM, real memory is the most volatile storage imaginable.) I also have come to acknowledge something that others have pointed out, which is that I can be coldly unemotional. For better or worse, in many situations, I find that emotions are just plain impractical.

Part I

One lone nut can change the world. It’s happened before and it’ll happen again. The latest manifestation, is, of course, Cho Seung-Hui’s killing spree at Virginia Tech this past week. Initially, as natural, I felt revulsion and horror at the idea that one person could do such things. But it is real, and it happened. Which means that something will happen because of it. So the question is, what? The obvious answers are that those connected to the victims should certainly be given honor and time to grieve, as is their prerogative.

But should the rest of us be forced to? On Friday, at my school, students were encouraged to wear VT’s colors and forced to observe a moment of silence at noon EST (By which time everything was already over?) to “honor the victims.” I must admit, I don’t get it. Perhaps I’m overly pragmatic, but I honestly do not see what will be accomplished by not talking. If anything, time should be taken in class to talk about the events, where relevant, and discuss what could be done to change what happened. Talk about what happened. Learn. Because there really is nothing more useless than mandatory emotion: stopping our day en masse and pretending to feel something on command. I’d be willing to wager that during “the Moment” more than half of the students at this school were contemplating their lunch, their afternoon plans, how long one “moment” seemed to be or anything else not related to VT.

What I support instead would be to have an informed discussion on what happened and what counter-measures there are against it reoccurring. This, of course, is predicated on school even requiring time spent on the topic instead of each individual learning for himself. But this will not happen in any widespread fashion for a number of reasons. I say “widespread” because there may be a few teachers who dedicate time to informed debate, but these will be isolated and small compared to the school-wide moment of silence.

The first of these reasons is the fact that I attend a public school, which is steeped in feelgood political correctness. The idea that you can not always stop a determined person from killing others flies in the face of the warm and fuzzy idea that there’s always something we could have preemptively done to stop him. Some have said that based on his attitudes and writings that the killer was clearly mentally disturbed and needed psychological help. However, since someone in his mental state is unlikely to seek help on his own, to get him this would require some remarkable Nanny-statism to have him committed. This is, obviously, unacceptable.

Another point that would contradict the public school ideology of political correctness is that of an armed citizenry and the removal of the gun ban and “Gun Free Zones” could have stopped what happened in progress. That is to say, if someone had had a gun aside from the killer, it is entirely possible that fewer people would be on the list of the dead. But, of course, the Second Amendment and political correctness dine at separate tables.

Philosophical discussions aside, there is the simple matter that what happened at VT is outside the scope of the majority of the classes being taught at school. It would also just be a lot more trouble to become informed and dedicate class periods to discussion than to simply bring the school to a halt for a grand total of maybe thirty seconds.

So what we end up with is an empty and meaningless, politically correct lip service memorial to those killed.

Part II

I must admit that the prospect of an informed debate in school tickles my fancy, but I know that such a thing would be largely unattainable given that a depressingly few of my peers are actually informed on the topic. The comparison between the liberal feelgood mindset and the teenage mindset have been made before: they are both more based on feelings than facts and the self instead of reality.

Take, for example, the moment of silence itself. Once it was concluded, my teacher expressed the view, which I concur with, that the “moment” seemed more than a single moment. He was admonished for this in shocked voices calling his name from my classmates, to which he responded quite correctly that the moment would do absolutely nothing because, “it’s not like the VT students will know that we did it or anything.”

The class nearly exploded. A number of different voices objected to this, all expressing the view summed up by two objectors’ statement, “It’s the idea!”

Thus, lacking in intelligent and reasoned logical capacity, I am forced to write off my classmates on the whole and hope they learn those skills elsewhere. This is not to say that I don’t do my part to help educate my peers, but there are really only two out of two thousand SRHS students that I’ve attempted to enlighten, as it were.

So then, what is the rest of America that has passed high school to do? Well, since this wouldn’t be a proper blog essay without hammering on the mainstream media (MSM), here goes. It’s clear what they’d like us to think, or at least how they’d like you to react; namely, scared out of your pants. Labeling the killing of thirty-two people as the the largest mass murder in US history (how about that September 11th?) and publishing frightening headlines, the MSM are doing an excellent job of selling papers, but not much else. Heck, they’re even having a whack at the old video game anvil.

Personally, this is where I begin to read from the Second Amendment playbook. We remove the ridiculous “Gun Free Zones” which act as a magnet to violence. How many killers would attempt a spree like what we saw at VT in a police station where they know the occupants are armed, for example? We also allow concealed carry license holders (i.e. responsible and trained adults) to keep their sidearms with them.

But the bigger solution is to convince Fred Thompson to run for President and then elect him:

When people capable of performing acts of heroism are discouraged or denied the opportunity, our society is all the poorer. And from the selfless examples of the passengers on Flight 93 on 9/11 to Virginia Tech professor Liviu Librescu, a Holocaust survivor who sacrificed himself to save his students earlier this week, we know what extraordinary acts of heroism ordinary citizens are capable of.

The Cliff’s Notes on Mr. Thompson are that he was an attorney who became a Tennessee senator, and later an actor, gaining public exposure as the DA on Law and Order. Some people are convinced that he will make an excellent President, far better than the current crop of contenders. Initially, I was dumbstruck by the idea, but as I read more and more about it, he seems a better and better candidate.

The biggest solution, however, is to do our best to convince the rest of the nation, the sector that believes that we can legislate mass murderers with things like “Gun Free Zones,” that any attempts thusly will fail. Murderers are, by default, already breaking the law. This is a perfect example of a threat that the government can not protect us from. We must do the job ourselves. And this is the toughest battle of all: the battle for hearts and minds.

Oh, and by the way, my school is a gun free zone.

Postscript: I do not write this to discourage feeling bad about the VT killings. We should all feel something about what happened. I am simply encouraging that a logical and reasoned approach must be taken in matters as serious as this. Measures such as Yale’s ban on fake weapons onstage accomplish nothing, while allowing people to protect themselves does. We would all like to never see events like last Monday happen again. It all comes down to how to accomplish that.

Categories: Real Life
  1. Greg Hunt
    April 25, 2007 at 11:02 pm | #1

    I agree with you that looking at many things rationally makes sense. Seeing the reality of events and situations is preferable to seeing only some utopian or politically correct interpretation that just masks reality.

    Talking openly about the horrible events that happened at VT would help people understand the events and might suggest ways to help prevent such tragedies in the future, I agree. It would also help people deal with their feelings and fears about what happened. I’m sorry to hear that these sorts of discussions aren’t happening at many schools.

    At the same time, however, I urge you not to bottle up your emotions about this or any other events in life. Bottling up your emotions disconnects you from yourself and disconnects you from other people in your life. Bottling up your emotions is not healthy. Having emotional responses to things is okay for everyone. Having emotions means you’re human. Emotions are part of reality.

    I urge you to think with both your mind and your heart. That’s the way to be a whole person.

  1. April 18, 2008 at 3:33 pm | #1

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