“People with nowhere to go have decided to speak in the blood of children.” – R.B.
Powerful words written by a good friend of mine with a gift for metaphor. They deserve to be reproduced.
I know it’s been a few days since the events at VT and I’ve posted since, but I keep reading what people are saying about why this young man did what he did and I’m finding myself developing and remembering some serious concerns I have about what the “aftermath” might be and the state of things in America.
Some good friends of mine that were creative writing types are justifiably concerned about what parallels might be drawn between this young man and writers everywhere. His prose has been characterized as “dark” and “disturbing”, and that is being cited as a “warning sign” of a disturbed mind. Now, I won’t deny that crazy people can write some crazy shit, but certainly not everybody that writes crazy shit is crazy. I don’t see anyone advocating locking up Thomas Harris; he’s certainly not going to go about eating people and that’s certainly disturbing writing.
I can only hope that students refuse to censor themselves, refuse to stop exploring “disturbing” themes and ideas out of fear of profiling. I hope that the educators reading this uncensored work are engaged enough with the authors to recognize the true character of their minds.
And that engagement is something that I might say is the single biggest factor that leads to the sort of social isolation that we see in cases like this. It’s horrible that in a society that prides itself on the high quality of our educations, lifestyles, and institutions, we are so woefully unconnected with each other.
I had the gift in highschool of a faculty and staff that were engaged with their students and observant of more than just the grades they gave. I suppose we were different, in that we were away from home, but that consciously or unconsciously took on the role of surrogate parents. In a culture that almost encourages absentee parenting, and certainly doesn’t shun it, we need to be even more acutely aware that our children are “well adjusted”.
I was reading an article on the website of some newspaper and alongside the article was a comment posted by a user. The comment said, [I paraphrase a bit, emphasis mine.] “We should not be so concerned with the man that did this and more concerned with the other students. We taught them to be cowards.” I just couldn’t believe what I was reading. If anything, we’re teaching them to be assholes with little fear of reparation from their actions.
The speaker was right, in that we do need to be concerned with the students. The “loner type” is as much of a result of shunning by his peers as it may be any of his conscious decision. Most “loners” such as this young man, wanted nothing more than to be included. One article cited a former highschool classmate recounting an incident where he was nervous about reading aloud in class, and when requested to do so, was taunted and told to “go back to China.” When and how did we develop the idea that this is acceptable behavior?? When I was in middle school I was taunted mercilessly by a group of students. When confronting the administration with that fact and the lack of interference on the behalf of the staff, one administrator said, and I’ll never forget it as long as I live, “They’re just kids being kids and there’s nothing that we can do to stop it.”
Now I bet if the actions of these tormentors, both mine and his, were brought to the attention of their parents, they would find the behavior at least somewhat distasteful and make efforts to put a stop to it. I’m not saying that America’s parents are all bad parents, it’s that they’re not being given and they’re not seeking out the opportunities to be parents.
Of course, as we see in the aftermath of any major incident carried out by a single individual or group of homogeneous individuals, I’m concerned about profiling of immigrants. This country already has a hard enough time dealing with people that seek to share in its prosperity. Thank god he was here completely legally or the shit-storm would unlike any we’ve seen for quite a while. I hope I’m not offending anyone when I say this, but white Americans are notoriously bad at identifying the races other than their own and tend to lump related cultures all together as one and the same. (I reference the “Go back to China” comment.)
And, of course, we come to the “violent music and video games” argument. Reporters are fond of pointing out the similarities between some of his images and those of a popular Koren cult movie. And of course reviving the “violent images make violent people” argument. Now, I don’t know where I stand on this. The problem with this issue lies in the individual characters of the observers. Some people can maintain that awareness that this != reality, but some are the types that *do* “get desensitized” to it. I’ve seen types of personalities, mostly male, that see something on a game or movie and think “hey that’s cool” and internalize that idea. They eventually develop a mentality and vocabulary full of these violent images. I’ve SEEN it. This, of course, ties back to parents.
At all serves to make me grateful for the good that came out of my own experiences as a kid and even more grateful for the people around me that supported me and the few friends that I did have and the balancing effect that they had on my life. My heart goes out to the victims of those that died that day, and those that continue to suffer. Even more my voice goes out to those that identify, at least in some part, with the shooter. May you find the hope and compassion that you need before it’s too late.
America, I recognize that it’s asking a lot, but please be smart and be nice.