Virginia Tech Tragedy

I took a look at some of the morning shows (“Good Morning America” and “Today”) today. I’m sorry but I was reminded of vultures feasting on the dead. 

The dominant media’s birds of doom are in full feeding frenzy.  NBC’s Matt Lauer looked hungry…and excited. Maybe I shouldn't say that but that's how he seemed to me.  

The scavengers of death will be circling Blacksburg, Virginia for a while more, with freshly minted synthesizer soundtracks in the background.  

At some point the soundtracks and story names (“Massacre at Virginia Tech,” “Butchery in Blacksburg,” “Tragedy on Campus”) will be taken down. The media parasites will disappear, waiting for the next great mass tragedy to devour and transmit. 

To transmit it in a way that evades critical issues and reinforces authoritarian values.

From what I’ve seen on my personal telescreen, it’s all about the intricate Law and Order/Medium/CSI  (all television crime shows) details: identifying the shooter and his motives; the timing, places and path of mayhem; the two-hour interval between the first shooting and the second shootings; the chains placed on the doors of the Engineering building; the bullet angles and the like.  It’s all about the little crime-show details.

But to me there’s a different bottom line.

There is a certain tiny fraction of people who are going to lose it and go off on homicidal rampages.  This is especially true in an exceedingly atomized and highly competitive society that tends to glorify impersonal and mass violence and where there is very little in the way of a serious, non-stigmatized mental health policy. 

Thanks to the Gun Lobby and the availability of high- kill-ratio weapons like the rapid reload 9 mm handgun (one of Cho Seung-Hui’s weapons), the relatively tiny number and percentage of sorry folks who go over to the mass-murderous dark side are going to be able to take down a lot of their fellow human beings when they crack. 

The NRA says that “guns don’t kill people; people kill people.” 

Well, of course human agency is required for homicide.  Nobody says that the weapons walked into Columbine High School on their own and started firing without direction from Kleibold and Harris. It took “human” Nazi agents to operate the ovens of the Holocaust.  It took Tibbets to fly the B-52 over Hiroshima and drop a criminal payload on tens of thousands of innocent “Japs.”  

The point is that modern gun technology allows crazed killers to kill and maim many more than they would be able to slaughter without that technology.  Cho Seung-Hui would not have killed 33 with a machete or a crossbow or a standard hunting rifle.

Someday, perhaps a relative of domestic 9-mm or Semiautomatic rifle violence will somehow make in into an NRA convention cocktail party with some of the latest high-kill-ratio hardware strapped on. He’ll take out 50 or so gun lobby members in a minute or two.  Right before he’s taken down, he’ll be heard screaming “go ahead and tell me I could have done that with my bare hands, or with a knife, or with a shotgun or [fill in the blank] you blood-soaked bastards!”

Take a look at some of the stuff our "free market" makes available to you and your fellow Americans in the name of "life and liberty." 

Some NRA types would like us to believe that the solution would be for all us to be armed all the time. Would I want to have a weapon (and training in how to use it) if I were unfortunate enough to be in a room just entered by a raging, well-armed Cho Seung-Hui?  Yes, I would. Have I ever been in a situation where I found myself wishing I were armed? Yes, I have.   

But the notion of all of us being locked and loaded on a regular basis is a recipe for endemic violence on a routine scale that would easily dwarf the body counts resulting from such terrible but rare incidents as Columbine and Virginia Tech.   

People go into crazy rages all the time – in their homes, on the road, in bars, at stores, sometimes in workplaces – and the idea of them always having a pistol at the ready to shoot themselves and/or others is just…well, it’s insane.

The gun lobby bears a heavy burden of responsibility in the latest mass-killing incident as in earlier ones.

We should also have a problem with a federal government whose “leader” is about to sweep into Blacksburg in the name of healing when he continues to conduct a foreign policy of murder and mayhem in the Middle East.  

We might in this month of Martin Luther King’s assassination (he was killed on April 4, 1968) reflect back on the following part of the great civil rights leader’s explanation (given on April 4, 1967) for his opposition to the Vietnam War:

“It grows out of my experience in the ghettos of the North over the last three years – especially the last three summers. As I have walked among the desperate, rejected and angry young men I have told them that Molotov cocktails and rifles would not solve their problems.  I have tried to offer them my deepest while maintaining my conviction that social change comes most meaningfully through nonviolent action.  But they asked – and rightly so – what about Vietnam? They asked if our own nation wasn’t using massive doses of violence to solve its problems, to bring about the changes it wanted.  Their questions hit home, and I knew that I could never again raise my voice against violence of the oppressed in the ghettos without first having spoken clearly to the greatest purveyor of violence in the world today – my own government” (King, “ A Time to Break the Silence,” Riverside Church, New York City, April 4, 1967)  

The Blacksburg killings are a terrible tragedy. It is obviously appropriate and necessary for the nation to mourn and commemorate the horrible day and its victims.  

We also need to experience a national moment of grief and remembrance for the countless thousands of Iraqi children, men and women we have senselessly slaughtered in the name of “freedom.” And then we need to stop the state violence we are inflicting within and beyond Iraq.

Last summer I went numb hearing, viewing and reading numerous open media accounts of Lebanese children and families being bombed into early graves by the U.S. ally Israel – with U.S (including overwhelming congressional and Democratic  Party support) approval. There was no national mourning in honor of those victims of senseless violence.  The people on the wrong end of our imperial guns are “unworthy victims.’

You can’t credibly mourn and denounce violence at home while you are perpetrating and supporting it (on a much larger scale) abroad.   

War criminal George W. Bush’s first comment on yesterday’s massacre included an endorsement of Americans’ cherished “right to bear arms,” including 9mm pistols.

Bush will be speaking for healing and against violence at Virginia Tech today.  If I were there I wouldn’t hiss while he spoke. The events are too solemn and painful for the politics.  I would just look at the floor during his oration and I’d try to tune him out if I could.  

We need to choose doves over vultures.  

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