I'm sure I'm not the only person who is reeling from this week's news. From the massacre at Virginia Tech to the Baghdad bombings that killed 170 people yesterday alone, it has been a rough one. Every time I think I'm getting some equilibrium back, I'm thrown off again. Like yesterday, I heard someone on the radio asserting that this isn't the time to talk about gun control because for all of those who would argue in favor of more restrictions, there are plenty pointing out that if other students at Tech had been armed, they could've taken down the shooter themselves. I really feel like I'm living in bizarro world when I hear this rot. Not Virginia, by the way, I lived there for eighteen years. No, I mean crazy, alternate universe, nonsense world, where someone would actually defend the right to bear arms before extending sympathy to those whose lives have suddenly, horribly exploded in tragedy. I guess I mean the US.
Having grown up and gone to college in Virginia, I can tell you that it's all about the past. They call it tradition rather than the past because that sounds fancier. We wandered around Charlottesville calling our professors Mr. and Ms. because Mistah Jefferson never earned his PhD. Seriously. And I know there are plenty of people there, obviously far too many, who think that every restriction on the purchasing of firearms needs to be met with a loophole that will keep Virginia just about the easiest place in the world to get a gun. I didn't realize the president is a Virginian at heart until his spokeswoman reaffirmed his belief in the Second Amendment before he came out to extend his thoughts and prayers to Blacksburg and beyond. Well, okay, I could even handle that; it was just the sort of hamfisted insensitivity I've come to recognize as a hallmark of this administration. Still, when I heard and then read that:
Some argued that fewer might have died on the campus if students and faculty had been allowed to carry firearms…"
I thought I was really going around the bend.
That anyone would say anything so harebrained during a week like this is almost beyond tolerance. Is this the society we want? Is this why we've worked, as a nation, for more than 200 years to become the greatest, free-est society in the history of the world? So that we can send young people to college to sit next to armed teenagers under stress? Is there anyone who honestly believes that would prevent future tragedies? Giving young adults the right to carry concealed weapons into classrooms actually seems like an answer to gun violence? I can't quite get my head around that one. Of course, young men and women, even, or perhaps especially, those in college, are known for making silly mistakes that they regret in the near- and long-term. I sure did, and I'm glad I did because it was age-appropriate and taught me at least as much as my professors did. But I'm also really glad I knew no one was carrying concealed weapons around the campus/playground/pressure cooker that I roamed for four years.
I guess it's normal for people to try to think of ways to prevent tragedies like the one at Virginia Tech, and even to pretend to themselves that arming everyone will somehow make scary, senseless mass murders stop happening. But until we're interested in confronting the gun culture that makes human life in this country so utterly disposable, we'll never get anywhere. My friend who lives in Dubai wrote that her Arab friends are fascinated by our national romance with firepower. There's a little bit of Schadenfreude in their attention to this week's news, coming at a time when they have such trouble getting visas to our country because of heightened "security". Give me a break. What is security when you live in a country where, according to the CDC , children are more at risk of gun violence than in any other industrialized country? When in the wake of a crime like this there are people earnestly suggesting that we need more guns, it's time to wake up from our long national nightmare. Hell, it might even be time to face the fact that pretending we can manage the mentally ill without adequate funding is a dangerous delusion for everyone.