Lunaya Pravda

27 April 2007


I've deliberately held off on commenting on the Virginia Tech shootings, mostly because the incident's relation to gun control (both current and future), has been aptly covered by bloggers far more talented than me. I particularly enjoyed LawDog's commentary on the fact that not only are we denying people the most effective weapons for self defense, but the very mind-set required for it. Excellent point, that.

But what really has me irritated in this and other deadly attacks is the time and energy devoted to public wallowing. People who can be linked to the victims only in some Six-Degrees-of-Kevin-Bacon way are plastered by photojournalists on every television, newspaper, and website, sobbing uncontrollably in shameful displays of psychologically conditioned sorrow. They're rewarded by writers who quote them extensively, telling us all how they'll NEVER be the same, never feel safe, never get past their grief. Strangers leave mountains of candles and teddy bears and flowers and signs as some sick, clich├ęd memorial. Students across the nation are encouraged to visit with grief counselors and hold vigils and talk about their feelings. What an effective way to trivialize the dead.

And next year, on April 16th, we'll be inundated with the same vomitous bullshit all over again. Reopening wounds. Reminding the victims' families of their absence (as if they need it). Public wailing and gnashing of teeth. Grief counselors. Vigils.

The media have conditioned this ridiculous over-the-top response to tragedy in much the same way faith healers condition their followers to fall down during the laying on of hands. Followers see that everyone else falls down, so they fall down when their turn to be healed comes. We see the overwhelming public grief, and we're convinced that we must be hard-hearted and unhuman if we aren't as incapacitated by undiluted grief as all these other folks. And when we've been summarily duped by our emotions, we're paralized by inaction.

T.G. Browning of the Revised Devil's Dictionary, writes:

It's a peculiar, self-absorbed kind of mental masturbation to stand out in a courtyard with a bunch of people you don't know, holding a candlelight vigil for the slain students of Virginia Tech. None of the people there know any of the slain personally. The odds are extremely good that not one bloody person in such a crowd knows anyone who actually knows any of the murdered students. The odds are darn good that only a handful of people, at most, know anyone who knows anyone who is acquainted with the dead. If you're a betting person, it a good bet that no one there, does....

If there is one thing about the VT massacre that should stand out and be talked about, it's this: There was one person there who knew tragedy first hand, having survived a true holocaust: Liviu Librescu, the teacher who was killed protecting his students' backs, giving them time to escape. Like the passengers who prevented the terrorists from crashing their plane into their target, Librescu knew what he truly valued, in his case the students who depended upon him and looked to him for knowledge and leadership.

I can't see that teaching kids to manufacture grief is likely to produce many Liviu Librescu. Nor is it likely that fear will. There are, after all, all too many reasons to fear as it is. Don't weep for strangers for the sole purpose of grieving. Unless of course, you think reality shows on TV have any basis in reality whatsoever. If that's the case, weep on, my friend, great times will surely be yours.

Very few people are taking the time, like lewlew and her husband, to talk to their kids about formulating a plan to deal with violence BEFORE it happens. To think about potential havens, possible weapons for defense, what scenarios might make hiding or playing dead more viable than fighting back. No, most folks are still so paralized by grief (and will remain so) that little will be learned from any of this. And that, to me, is the most offensive waste.

If you really want to honor the dead, shed a few tears if you must, but above all, utilize their deaths as a learning experience rather than a grief competition.

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