Triggered by Mole:
“What are they going to do here?” my student asked anxiously, “after Virginia?”
I didn’t know. She was asking the day after it happened, during my first class. The college had no official stance on the shooting at that time, had not issued any bulletins. I didn’t know what to say. I’d been trying not to think about it. I don’t watch the news or get the paper. When the daily headlines from DemocracyNow show up in my inbox, I scan them and often go no further. So I knew nothing more than the barebones story: some guy gone berserk, people dead, a delayed response by the campus security team.
“I don’t know,” I said. “I’m sure they’ll issue a statement soon, but it’s too early right now.”
“Could it happen here?”
They were buzzing. Anxious. In all my classes the day after the shooting we talked about the shooting instead of what was on the agenda. They needed something, reassurance that they would not be rounded up and lined up and shot up.
What I want to do is to grab all those who argue for the right to bear arms and put them in a room and convince them that 33 people would likely be alive today if it weren’t for lax guns laws. But it wouldn’t make any difference. There’s something deep in the psyche of the people in this country that lets them say, straightfaced, “Guns don’t kill people. People kill people.” As if that’s the answer. As if something so slick could have any significant meaning in the face of this tragedy.
Then again, as Dale says, people have been slaughtering other people for years. They will continue to do so. In Iraq, my taxpayer dollars are funding the wholesale slaughter of hundreds of thousands of people. It’s all part of the same mentality that allowed for the shooting at Virginia Tech, that made it easy for a lonely, disturbed young man to buy what he needed to kill 30+ people.
I want to shine a light on the assumptions of the pro-gun faction in this country, but what use is it? It’s incomprehensible to me that people could trot out arguments for gun ownership in the face of the tragedies exploding through violence world-wide. But I suppose it’s incomprehensible to them that I shouldn’t recognize the Gawd-given raaght of every American to bear arms as is guaranteed in that there 2nd Amendment.
What I’ve been trying to do, to understand, these past months, is how helpless we are in the face of all of it — disappearing bees and the impending food shortage; peak oil supplies and the upcoming diminishment that the Bush administration denies; the degradation of an environment that even still catches me with its beauty, so that sometimes I can hardly breathe with the glory of light and color about me. All these things, and the anxiety on the faces of my students who think, anew, That could be me, soaked in blood, dead. Will it happen here?
In the end, what else can we do but acknowledge that we never know what’s going to happen, and that there’s no point living in fear of tragedy. Every day still the sun rises, pushing through even the densest clouds to light the world. Every day we could die, and every day that we don’t is another chance to do what we can to make the world better for others. In the end, crazed gunmen or cancer or a misplaced step or simple old age will take us away. In the meantime, what matters is compassion for all.