The Virginia Tech tragedy and US society

Virginia Tech campusBy David Walsh:

The Virginia Tech massacre—social roots of another American tragedy

18 April 2007

A day after the mass killing at Virginia Tech in Blacksburg, Virginia, along with grief and dismay, some reflections on life in the US are clearly in order.

The event was horrifying, but no one who has followed the evolution of American society over the past quarter-century will be entirely shocked.

Such psychopathic episodes, including dozens of multiple killings or attempted killings in workplaces and schools, have occurred with disturbing regularity, particularly since the mid-1980s.

A timeline assembled by the Associated Press and the School Violence Resource Center lists some 30 school and college shootings alone since 1991.

Official reaction to the Blacksburg deaths, one feels safe in predicting, will be as superficial and irrelevant as it has been in every previous case.

The appearance of George W. Bush at the convocation held on the Virginia Tech campus Tuesday afternoon was especially inappropriate.

Here is a man who embodies the worst in America, its wealthy and corrupt ruling elite.

As governor of Texas, Bush presided over the executions of 152 human beings; as president, he has the blood of thousands of Americans, tens of thousands of Afghans and hundreds of thousands of Iraqis on his hands.

His administration has made unrelenting violence the foundation of its global policies, justifying assassination, secret imprisonment and torture.

Speaking of the Blacksburg killings, Bush commented: “Those whose lives were taken did nothing to deserve their fate. They were simply in the wrong place at the wrong time.

Now they’re gone—and they leave behind grieving families, and grieving classmates, and a grieving nation.”

If he and his cronies were not entirely immune to the consequences of their own policies, it might strike them that they could be speaking about the masses of the dead in Iraq, who have also done “nothing to deserve their fate.”

See also here.

And here.

The arms trader where the culprit of the massacre bought his guns was interviewed on Dutch TV.

He washed his hands of any responsibility for the tragedy, saying “He could have bought the guns anywhere”.

An indictment of gun culture and gun laws in the state of Virginia.

Virginia Tech, blogs, and other media: here.

See also here.

And here.

And here.

And here.

And here.

Virginia Tech tragedy and US Islamophobes: here.

Virginia Tech and Bush: here.

Later shootings in the USA: here.

12 thoughts on “The Virginia Tech tragedy and US society

  1. Posted by: “Corey” cpmondello
    Fri Apr 20, 2007 6:58 am (PST)
    Rupert Cornwell: A brutal truth: Massacre is just part of everyday life in America

    You hear no new arguments because, deep down, there is nothing new to be said

    Published: 18 April 2007

    It is as if we are on autopilot. The ghastly tragedy swamps the news to the exclusion of all else. There are the heartbreaking stories of a university shattered and of the dozens of victims, their mostly young lives cut short so senselessly. We listen to the grief-stricken remarks of the President, and follow the breathless investigation of the perpetrator’s background, his history of mental illness. We share the anguished second guessing about whether his murderous rampage could have been prevented. Yet everything is playing to a script we know by heart.

    Virginia Tech, of course, is the worst incident of its kind in US history – and at one level, you would gain the impression from American television that Cho Seung-Hui has literally stopped the world.

    He hasn’t of course. On Tuesday, in what passes for a relatively quiet news day in Iraq, wire services reported the deaths of 56 people in violence across the country: some of them gunned down, some killed by a suicide bomber, some discovered as decomposed or decapitated corpses. But we heard not a word of that, nor of the trial in absentia in Italy of a US soldier accused of shooting dead an Italian intelligence agent, nor of the report that North Korea may be about to shut down a key nuclear reactor (which would be very big news indeed if true.) And somebody shot dead the Mayor of Nagasaki. But who cares? Instead, nothing but Virginia Tech.

    Yet, however exceptional the event, there is something formulaic, even routine, about the coverage. There is no soul searching, no wondering what might be wrong with a society where such things happen so frequently. You hear no new arguments, for deep down there is nothing new to be said.

    No detail of the tragedy is too tiny to recount; from where Cho went to high school to the thoughts of the postman who delivered mail, to where the family lived in the Virginia suburb of Centreville (and never met him). Yet America is showing scant sign of addressing the far bigger issue – of whether it is finally time to get serious about gun control.

    “Today is the time to focus on the families, the school and the community,” Dana Perino, the White House spokeswoman, said. But, she added, “we must allow the facts of the case to unfold before we talk about policy.” Reasonable enough. But if not now, in the white heat of stunned national outrage, when?

    For public anger can force unexpected change. Over the course of a long career as a loud-mouthed talk radio host, Don Imus must have made hundreds of offensive remarks. Last week, he made what seemed just another one, about the Rutgers University women’s basketball team. Astonishingly, public tolerance at last snapped. In three days, Imus was out on his ear.

    Might not Virginia Tech be the Rutgers University joke for the gun lobby, the moment when violence-drenched America says enough is enough? Alas no. Yes, there will be debate, just as after similar awful incidents in recent years, from Columbine High School to the murder of the five Amish schoolgirls last October in Pennsylvania.

    But the underlying mood is of disillusioned resignation. So President Bush formulaically speaks of a “day of sadness for our entire nation,” and how Americans are “asking God to provide comfort for all who have been affected.” It is less certain, however, that a President from gun-toting Texas, who has pursued the conservative vote his entire career, will try to mobilise temporal political forces to render comfort from the Almighty unnecessary.

    Keep coming to our world-class universities, was the message to foreign students from Sean McCormack, the State Department spokesman yesterday. Virginia Tech was “an aberration”. As Donald Rumsfeld infamously remarked of the anarchy of post-invasion Iraq, “Stuff happens”.

    School shootings happen year in, year out, like tornados in the Midwest in springtime and hurricanes in the south in summer. There will be pressure to step up security procedures on campuses. But that, I confidently predict, will be it. Some even urge more guns, not less. The shooting was proof that “gun bans are the problem, and that Americans should have the rights to defend themselves”, according to The Gun Owners of America, a firearms lobbying group. In the meantime, the mighty media river rolls on, washing everything else away. And copycats watch, and wait to choose their moment.

    The massacre at Virginia Tech is alarming, not just because of its scale, or that the authorities missed warning signs about Cho Seung-Hui, or that he found it so easy to carry out his terrible mission. The biggest worry is the “copy cat” risk – or rather virtual certainty – that some other student who’s feeling depressed or victimised and wondering if life’s worth while, will see what happened at Blackburg. And then he’ll decide that he too might as well go out with a bang (or more exactly, as many deadly bangs as possible).

    The question is not whether, but where, when and how a new outrage will happen. Not, thankfully, at St Edward’s University in Austin, Texas, or at the University of Tennessee at Chattanooga, nor at the University of Oklahoma. The first two received bomb threats yesterday and briefly evacuated their campus. At the third, someone was reportedly seen with a weapon. All three scares were unfounded. But sooner or later, the scare will be real, and more people will die because of America’s inability to strip the glamour from guns.


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