More of the Same
First, we must acknowledge that there is nothing wildly unusual about the Virginia Tech massacre. It’s horrible, of course. But people have been doing horrible, deadly things to other people for quite a long time. And they are doing them now, on a greater scale than this, in Sudan, Eritrea, Nigeria, Afghanistan, Iraq, and every other badly troubled spot on the globe.[via Prof. John Stackhouse's Weblog]
So to the question, “How could this have happened?” one can respond that it is always happening, and has been happening for millennia. This is what some of us do to each other when we become deeply angry, deeply sad, deeply alienated, and deeply wicked.
Notice that I used that word “deeply.” I did it to show that such people are simply at a further position down the same spectrum of evil upon which I myself am located. I mentally and verbally write off people all the time—while I drive, while I’m reading or watching something I hate, while I’m in a particularly intense argument, or while I’m being threatened. I don’t think I’m especially prone to violence and neither are you. But haven’t each of us thought that, if we could just get away with it, we might just want to murder him or her?
....A gun, thirdly, provides an easy way out. The gunman, having spent his anger, can turn the gun on himself and blow his brains out in an instant.
This is an important consideration. Anyone considering going on a rampage in the past faced the question of what to do once the killing was done. Escape, sure: but one would be on the run, perhaps forever. And if you were caught, society would exact a terrible price.
Suicide was the alternative. But every previous means of quick suicide meant suffering. Falling on your sword meant excruciating pain; hanging yourself ineptly resulted in slow strangulation; jumping off a height meant perhaps not dying, or dying quickly—each of these were pretty awful to contemplate. But one quick jerk of the trigger and…the hope of everlasting sleep. Not much of a deterrent....
In the shadow of the Virginia Tech massacre, however, we might pause to consider that there is something new under the sun, a technology that makes this sort of terror not just possible, but likely.
And yet what this new technology does is magnify what has been there all along: the age-old evil in humanity—in all of us.
So yes, we should spend more, and better, on mental health facilities. Yes, we should help campus ministries and churches reach more lonely youth. Yes, we should aid parents struggling to raise troubled children. And, yes, we should rethink gun control laws.
But no matter what we do about the place of guns, especially in American society, we must brace ourselves for more of the same.