Nor have I rushed to natter about the slaughter at Virginia Tech. A decent interval has passed now, and so I shall make my inevitable observations. Most of what I have to say is not original, but I'll try to comment briefly on the issues raised on various blogs and haunts of the punditocracy.
- First, the sheer horror of it all. Somehow the randomness, which is bad enough when a car or plane accident occurs, makes it all worse, as do the youth and numbers of the dead. Comfort the mourners.
- Sacrifice. Many are praising Professor Librescu, who died barring the door, giving his students time to jump out the window. Human beings honor those who give their lives for others. From an individualist perspective, Professor Librescu's action made no sense.
- Self-defense. Few, apparently, defended themselves. Partly, that was due to the prohibition on firearms on the campus, and partly, no doubt, to the shocking, unexpected nature of the events. Could not the killer have been swarmed--books thrown at him, a kick directed to his privates. In other situations of this kind, killers have been overpowered. If the immediate fear prevents such a response, perhaps self-defense training should be given. The police, of course, tend to tell people to cooperate, but this can't apply when the perp is already pumping out bullets.
- Gun control. Both sides of this perpetual debate have rushed to seize upon these events to further their cause. To me, gun prohibition is both politically impossible and looney. The police are a bureaucracy, and often not all that competent, and cannot be relied on in such emergencies. The only chances for survival in a situation like this are fight or flight. Gun controllers would deprive even the well-trained, say, the ex-Marine, of the means to defend themselves and others. One such fellow with a shoulder holster could have saved many lives. The prohibition of arms and the deprecation of self-defense turn citizens into infants. In the Therapeutic State, perhaps that is the purpose. In addition, existing laws in Virginia, if enforced, might have been enough to prevent the killer from buying guns--had had a history of being committed for mental illness.
- Mental illness. It now appears that the killer had serious mental problems that most who came into contact with him knew about, including his own family. He was both uncommunicative and delusional, and had a history of stalking and violence. Whether he was somewhere on the autism spectrum, bipolar, or schizophrenic, is hard to say. Too much more stringency in laws empowering institutionalization, compelled treatment, and parental notification would violate basic principles of liberty. The man was 23, and if he wanted to keep his life private from his parents, shouldn't that have been respected? However, these laws must be reconsidered, albeit carefully. In this era of many medications, there are treatments short of locking crazy people up.
- Immigration. The killer's family were South Korean, worked hard as pants pressers and sent their kids to college. Although their daughter seems to be highly successful in a middle-class sort of way, I can see no reason why we needed this particular family as immigrants. To what extent culture shock in childhood affected the killer's illness is unknown. Indeed, he seems to have had problems before he came here. There was simply no compelling reason to admit these people--no family reunification, no refugee or asylum situation, no special skill they brought to the economy.
- Mourning. These events brought out the usual collection of grief counselors, smarmy pep rallies, teddy bears and candles. Liturgies have evolved over centuries for these situations. They exist for a reason. I begrudge no one his mourning device of choice, but advocate the old ways as wisest and most tasteful.
- Radical evil. Pace Anne Frank, people are not "good at heart." We may possess a degree of grace, but this is a fallen, demon-haunted world. We need less "self-esteem" and more contrition, and recognition of our need for healing, none more than I.
- Iraq. Some, such as Marc Cooper, are pointing to the numbers who die, many randomly in Iraq, compared to this event of which we make much. True enough, and a reason for sober pondering of the situation there. I doubt, however, that the analogy will change any minds.
Media PC folly. Oh, and an afterthought. It's un-PC for a white guy to make tasteless remarks about a basketball team, but apparently quite all right for the network to play, and play, and play the pyschotic rants of a mass-murderer.
Kill a co-ed, get on TV.