Virginia Tech shootings
It's hard to know what to say. We'll be digging through this incident for meaning for a long time. It's almost too awful to think about.
Some good commentary on this can be found at Balloon Juice, where Juan Cole counters some of the fantasy machismo that's floating about out there. He also describes some of the heroic things people at Virginia Tech did to save themselves and others.
Via Sullivan's blog, we have reports on the killer's suicide note and a couple violent, disturbing plays he wrote.
It's also worth noting that though this mass killing is a horrible tragedy here in the US, it's a pretty typical day in Iraq. I don't know exactly what to do with that information. Other than to be mad at the Bush administration and everyone who enabled it to screw things up so badly. And that includes myself for not fighting harder to oppose it.
The political issue of gun control is of course already in the air. I'm very pro-gun control. I think owning a firearm should require going through a lot of red tape. I think all firearms should require passing safety tests and taking out liability insurance policies, just like cars. I think our gun culture is ultimately very harmful, and we should try to turn away from it. But of course I thought all these things before Virginia Tech. And I don't know if stricter gun control laws can prevent this sort of incident. They might make them less likely to happen, though. And that is probably the best we can do.
I certainly don't think having more people carrying firearms around college campuses is the answer, as some gun enthusiasts are arguing. While it may prevent massacres like this, the number of drunken shootings that would probably take place far outweigh the benefits.
So what can we do? It does seem that campus and local police will have to be alert for the possibility of this kind of rampage, and have the training and capability to deal with it. I am sure there will be a lot of soul-searching and finger-pointing among the police in the area. The truth may be that unless we want to turn ourselves into a police state, there might not be a lot we can do that would actually help. That powerlessness feels awful, but it may be better to realize it than to lash out counterproductively, the way this country has in reaction to 9/11. (I'm not sure that's a fair characterization though: I think it's more fair to say that those in power used the emotions generated by 9/11 to enact an agenda they'd bee longing to implement for quite some time. The warmongers didn't "lash out", they were very cynical and calculated in building support for what they wanted.)
Another thing to keep in mind is that this kind of hideous rampage is thankfully still very rare in the United States. It looms very large in our minds, but we should not let our lives be crippled by fear.
If you want to contribute to the memorial fund set up by Virginia Tech, you can do so.