Cross-posted from my livejournal:
Now that the pleasantries are out of the way, I guess I should say something about the shootings at Virginia Tech yesterday.
VT is about a three or four hour drive away from where I am now, so naturally a lot of the campus here was talking about it. The radio stations were talking about it this morning, and I don't watch much TV, but I can imagine it probably still dominates the airwaves.
I said it after Columbine back in 01, and I'll say it again: "You'd think people would learn to stop fucking with the quiet weird ones, as they're usually the ones who'll remember."
Although, this time the killer wasn't some over-bullied 16 year old skateboarder taking out the high school jocks. 23 is old enough to be above & beyond simple feelings of teenage angst. College is in a different world than high school. Bullying is rarer, and cliques evolve into Greek life which you can either join or ignore at your leisure. However, the pressure is even stronger. Tuition is expensive, parking is shitty, the food sucks, teachers are often sadistic, the syllabus means jack shit, and it's a lot easier to fail a class. You've got an RA busting your balls over having a microwave in your room, roommates having sex when you're trying to study for finals, and people stealing your shit if you don't bolt it down. You're always too broke to get what you want, and you have to struggle to get what you need. Add to that the societal expectations for you to be done with the whole mess in four short years, complete with guaranteed connections to the business world, and the condescending bullshit you have to put up with if you major in liberal arts. Yeah, it's a $10,000 - $40,000 a year pressure cooker.
I suppose it's easy to look back on it and say, the school should've warned the students sooner, more security should've been around, etc. But no one really expects shit like this to happen. I mean, we know it can happen, but we don't wear Kevlar to class because we don't expect it to happen. Kind of like how surfers are always surprised when they get attacked by Great White Sharks. Still, everyone wants to point the finger. The school should've done more. His parents should've raised him better. Society needs to improve. Everyone keeps playing hot potato with the blame baton, but I don't think anyone can be held accountable for this but the killer himself, and he proved to be far more effective at judging and sentencing himself than the US legal system would've been.
Yeah, the school seriously dropped the ball in terms of getting the information out and locking the campus down, but I'm fairly sure that the administration wasn't outright negligent in protecting the students, just naive and uninformed. If they had any clue how ugly things were going to get, I imagine they would've acted with a lot more gusto.
And yeah, his home life probably wasn't all that sweet. But not all sociopaths come from bad homes. There are some people who try to raise their children the right way, and for whatever reason it just doesn't stick. It's still too soon to see if his parents were fast asleep at the wheel during his critical mental development years.
And of course, society is fucked up. But when we blame society, what the hell do we accomplish? Society is not a self-sustaining sentient entity with a mind of it's own. A society is made up of it's people, no more, no less. People are the molders & shapers. People determine what is the norm, what is unacceptable, what is to be strived for, or shunned.
So, if I had to pass the blame baton, I would place it squarely in the hands of humanity.
I think that there is something inside of human beings that makes them feel this way. Something that gives them pleasure when they hurt their fellow man, or gives them a dose of godlike superiority and contempt for the rules. Something that tells an American soldier that it's much more pleasurable to gang rape and kill an Iraqi child than pay for a willing prostitute. Something inside a Klansman that makes him feel like he's doing his duty to his race when he drags a black man to death behind his pick-up truck. Something inside of a suburban housewife that convinces her that there's no greater joy than feeling her estranged husband's body thump beneath her car wheels as she runs him over three times. Something inside of a teenager that finds it amusing to stomp an old homeless man to death under an overpass. Something inside of us that gets off on causing unspeakable pain to another human being. Maybe it's the existence of evil. Maybe it's innate depravity. Or maybe it's just the last part of us that's non-human, a true animal savagery that we kept when we evolved from our ancestors.
Whatever it is, we all have it, and you want to know how I know? Because we have all felt good when something bad has happened to someone else. Maybe they had it coming, maybe they didn't. Who the hell are we to decide who's got what coming to them, anyway? We're all fuck-ups to some degree, and there isn't a person on this planet over the age of five that someone else hasn't wanted to get their so-called just desserts. But I think that's how it manifests itself in small doses. I think that wanting the jerk who cut you off and almost made you crash to get cheated on by his girlfriend is cruel, but fairly harmless. But maybe for some people it manifests a little stronger. Instead of just wishing bad luck on the jerk, maybe they take down his license plate number, or follow him to his house with the intentions of committing an act of violence. Maybe they break his windows, maybe they scream obscenities, or maybe they beat him to death with a tire iron in front of his family.
I'm guessing that this shooter had a whole lot of it. I'm guessing that most mass murderers, rapists, child molesters, and sociopaths have a whole lot of it. Maybe that's all that they have. But it seems like more and more people these days are expressing it in large doses.
It would be really easy to blame it all on moral decline and lack of religion in schools. But in my humble opinion, life may have been all peaches and cream for some people in the US, 50 or so years ago, but many others were still targeted by the sickness of the human condition. Humans have been vicious creatures since the dawn of time, all over the world. But do not despair, for there is a cure. One day, whether by asteroid, world war, plague, famine, or global warming, the existence of man will be just a memory for this battle-scarred piece of rock that we call Earth. Until then, we all just have to do the best we can.
Don't get me wrong, I'm not some sarcastic hardass who masturbates to disaster movies, and counts down the days until the end. I'd like to be optimistic, and say that maybe one day we'll say enough is enough, and find a way to isolate the dangerous ones from our midst. Maybe with enough realization that we have a higher reasoning that sets us apart from other animals, we can be fully ethical without being fanatics. Maybe the most conservative of the religious right can learn that blindly hating all those who don't agree with your cause doesn't help you, nor does it help them. Maybe even the most hardcore atheists could one day understand that the absence of religious doctrine doesn't have to mean the absence of morality.
In my own twisted way I think that I do care about people, and I truly want them to do better and rise above the foul conditions we make for ourselves and each other. I want to be able to go out at night without a weapon. I want to be able to be alone with a guy that I like without worrying about his ulterior motives. I want gay people to be able to be open about their sexuality without fear of being attacked. I want slurs and racism to fade into forgotten obscurity. I want pedophiles to prefer having sex with other consenting adults. I want governments to serve their people instead of the other way around. I want war to become a last resort, or altogether obselete. I want this fucked-up, ass-backwards, sick, sad world to become as perfect as we imperfect beings can ever make it. That would be exquisite.
But I don't have a lot of hope for the future of humanity, and to tell you the truth, I like it better that way. If you don't expect much from humanity, then you'll never be let down when it fails to meet even your lowest expectations.
May the 32 victims rest in peace, and may it be several years before the next maniac decides to try to break this record. Oh, you know it's coming.
***Might I add, that this reinforces my beliefs on gun control. If he did all this damage with two regular handguns, then you can't really argue that semi-automatics are a whole lot worse than your average .45. And law abiding citizens who would be the only ones actually obeying the gun control laws, aren't the ones who shoot up other people. Think about it.
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