April 18, 2007

Making Sense Out Of Tragedy

When faced with a senseless tragedy such as the shootings at Virginia Tech, the mind reels! How can one person create such havoc and where does the mindset come from that would even think of doing such a thing? Yet, if we try to look at this tragedy with out trying to make sense of it, then we are heartless indeed. The wanton slaughter of students and faculty at Virginia Tech has roots in mindless rage, the same kind of mindless rage that drives al Qaeda, Mugabe, Hitler and Stalin and myriad other mass murderers. It can be best explained as narcissistic rage. As Dr. Sanity notes:

Much of the evil that humans do to each other comes as a result of Narcissistic Rage and Narcissistic Idealism. In the former case, we hear about or know individuals who manipulate, control, subjugate, hurt or kill others and they are able to do this because they do not consider other people as human or separate from their own Self; or because they are so enraged they are not capable of empathy.
And so it seems with the wanton destruction of human life at VT. With the destruction, with the mental and verbal "gasp" that comes from hearing of this, of seeing it on television and hearing it on radio, with the sure knowledge that this will dominate the cable channels and airwaves for some time, we are faced with the inevitable why? And also the knowledge that this will soon become a political ploy for the left and the right as sides leap up to blame each other, to demand less or more gun control depending on your political leanings.

Somewhere, wrapped up in all of the verbage about to be dumped on the airwaves, cable networks and blogosphere there has to be some truth. Dr. Robert Godwin recently posted an article (an excerpt of which I quoted in my post "Brief Politico-Therapies: A Tour of the Psych-Bloggers") discussing communication (or the failure to communicate) in which he states:

Let us stipulate what is not a tautology -- that Truth is truth, and that it is mankind's unending task to make the one conform to the other. Whenever anyone -- even an atheist -- says anything, he is presupposing a universe in which a thing called "truth" may be encoded and passed from mind to mind through a medium called language."
So, there must be "truth" somewhere in the unfolding description of what happened, why it happened and what to do about it. That in turn, demands a political decision, one adopted freely by the populace to control/mitigate/prevent such tragedies from happening again to the extent that they can be controlled/mitigated/prevented.

Of course, we can all, now, read the immediate future. Those on the left will demand more gun control, those on the right will demand more concealed carry laws and somewhere perhaps on one reach or another, on one level or another, there we will find the "truth" of the matter. There will be those who will blame this on Bush, on liberals, on too many gun control laws, non not enough gun control laws, and those who will shrug their shoulders and say "So what?" as they consider all the wanton death and killing world-wide.

But, there is a difference. We are supposed to be a "civilized nation," a nation of laws, of moral stances, of faith, yet, faced with this kind of horror, we shy away not taking the necessary step mentally and that is to fix the responsibility where it belongs, the shooter. Oh, you can get high and mighty about it, after all, there are those who blame Charlton Heston for the shooting, those who blame Bush (read the comments here for that trope). In reality, the issue is what happened, and what can be done to prevent future happenings of a similar nature.

The anti-gun forces at work here are amazing. According to them, more guns laws would have stopped this, but the reality is different than the world colored by those rosy glasses. Washington DC and New York City have very strict gun laws, and high gun murder rates. England has banned the use of guns, and having one and using it in 100% self defense will get you in the docket, and even brandishing a toy gun at burglars can get you arrested, tried and convicted. The violent crime rate by people using hand guns is on the increase. Contra-intuitively (at least for the anti-gun forces) Switzerland is a country where by law, every household is armed for mandatory active and reserve duty. In Israel, 10 years or so ago, school teachers were allowed to be armed; the number of school shootings? Zero! Not that the Palestinians haven't tried.

If only one in 20 VT students and/or teachers had been armed, would the results have been the same? We cannot know, further, we cannot know if other innocents might have been killed by those responding to the killer. We do know, by light of ordinary reason, that the likelihood of an armed response might have cut the killing down considerably. We do know that in Texas where we have CCW, there have been zero misuses of that privilege by those with a CCW license.

Look, as a mental health professional, I know that this killer likely had some serious mental health issues, in fact, that has been pretty much confirmed by the MSM. Mr. Cho had a history of referral to mental health professionals and I can tell you with a certainty, if someone is determined to kill, or kill themselves there is damn little that you can do about it. Patients and convicts in maximum security institutions manage to kill or kill themselves fairly frequently. But in this case, someone armed, anyone armed and trained and present in the immediate area could likely have stopped this tirade.

There will be those who will say "Well, I have no problem with guns if people are trained, licensed and restricted in their gun ownership." Drivers meet that criteria, yet carnage continues on our highways. Others would argue for total confiscation and banning of all firearms. Well, illegal drugs such as heroin, methamphetamine, and even lowly pot are illegal already. Notice how well that total ban is working? The problem, I reiterate, is not the guns or their availability, the problem is taking responsibility for one's actions regardless of how those actions are brought about. The killers at Colombine were described as "victims" of frequent bullying, but they also were seldom told no by their families. No seems to be a lost word among parents today, and some folk are making a mint off of teaching parent's in "How To Say No" workshops.

Too, there are questions as to why the gunman at VT wasn't rushed, was it because no one knew what to do, because they "thought" that by obeying the instructions of a gunman they would be safe? Because of the info brandished about regarding not resisting for carjackings, holdups and maybe even school hostage situations? I don't know the answer to that, but I worry that we are not teaching our youngsters to stand up to bullies, and we need to.

Posted by GM Roper at April 18, 2007 09:45 AM | TrackBack

*Tragedy* I can make sense out of. Aristotle is very clear that it has a beginning, a middle, and an end.

The politically correct, therapeutic (so-called) culture is what's senseless - timposing "healing" before exacting judgment. And there's no end in sight to that!

Posted by Jeremayakovka at April 18, 2007 02:35 PM

This is an excellent piece and more and more people should be asking the same things especially "Why was the gunman not rushed at VT? "

Texas Fred's at http://texasfred.net/archives/44
has an interesting take on it:

"I am going to say this in plain English, this debacle was brought on, at least partially, by the political correctness and feel good politics that our children are being taught at home and in our liberal controlled colleges and universities, our students are taught to NOT fight back, our children are being taught that there are no losers in life, that we’re all equal and it’s not whether you win or lose, it’s how you play the game, they are taught to just submit and accept the consequences, and I personally feel that this attitude is as much responsible for the massive loss of life as anything…"

Posted by Faultline USA at April 18, 2007 02:56 PM

Neither political party wants to deal with this topic with 2008 coming.
Only insane renegades like Pelosi would approach it.

Posted by Stanford Matthews at April 18, 2007 03:31 PM

A cell phone recording indicated that at one stretch, twenty rounds were fired in seventy seconds. Think Fred could have rushed him quick enough to make it through that barrage? You basically had (on average) two seconds to get to him before he fired off another shot. Fred must be the "The Flash" if he's that quick. Fred should try out for the NFL, he'll break EVERY record in EVERY category at that speed.

Posted by e. nonee moose at April 18, 2007 03:40 PM

An armed student or professor could have stopped this before it got so bad. As much crap as I expect (and have) taken over this- it doesn't take a rocket scientist to learn how to use a gun. There is little need to access a situation like the students were in either...a whacko is telling them to line up? Someone pull out the gun and shoot him. Period. I'm very concerned with the perception many people seem to have- that only a certain class of people should be allowed to carry a gun...besides police and campus security. I hear this too often. I know quite a few really DUMB people who are REALLY good shooters.

And I know quite a few college educated people with high degrees who can't shoot an object two feet in front of them.

Armed citizens would mean less victims.

Posted by Raven at April 18, 2007 05:19 PM

Excellent post GM.
The if only is so strong, if only he had been rushed. My husband said the same thing, when they were told to line up, just turn around and shoot him or rush him somehow.

Posted by Wild Thing at April 18, 2007 05:31 PM

An outstanding post.

As far as can be determined, the students at VT offered no resistance. Zero. For me, that's one of the most distubing aspects of the massacre. VT is a fine school, but it seems that the students there don't have much gumption. Why not? Is our educational system turning our nation's young people into sheeple, ones who cow and wait for rescue or intervention?

In 2005, Cho was found by a court--and possibly a panel of mental-health professionals--to be "an imminent danger to others." Two years ago! Yet, he continue to attend classes at VT and even reached the class rank of senior. That's another aspect which deeply concerns me. Are there other Cho's out there?

Posted by Always On Watch at April 18, 2007 05:39 PM

Excellent post GM! You are right about Guns don't kill people, people kill people. Blaming guns, gun laws and gun control is removing the personal resposibility from the gunman. Now will arming students and teachers fix things? I do know that disarming Americans isn't the answer. If you really want to support gun control then buy a chainsaw. ;)

Posted by psyberwolfe at April 18, 2007 06:50 PM

GM have you seen the newly released video of the killer? I am curious about your thoughts if you have seen that yet. It's shows me how weird this kid really was...

Posted by Raven at April 18, 2007 08:28 PM

Excellent post (again).

I've seen and read everybody and everything being blamed. I certainly agree that the current climate of political correctness has much to do with the fact that Cho was allowed to stay on campus. Heck, at Huffington Post, Earl Ofari Hutchison is all upset because before Cho was identified, he was referred to as "an Asian man." (Your spam filter wouldn't let me post the link.)

Talk about political correctness, 32 murdered and this guy wants to argue semantics, claim racism, political correctness, etc. Truly a sick man.

Posted by DADvocate at April 18, 2007 09:30 PM

Thanks for a deeper look into this "insane" tragedy.

There's a major problem with the mental health needs of our nation. You don't have religious guidance anywhere (not PC); morals are "open season" (again - don't touch); people are more transient in our material world and changing economy and it's hard to make long, strong connections with people who could calm and clear your thoughts; parents are working so many hours - they don't notice the emotional and mental needs of their children.

We maintain "gun control" - IF this would work - there may be no deaths staring us in the face from Virginia Tech - for they have such a program; you can not un-invent guns (so serious crazies such as this would find them some way or another)(Just look at the huge murder rate in D.C. where the gun control laws are over-powering.) We should not be forced to give up this national protective freedom. In a college setting it would be a good move to offer a college course to all interested students (of course for paid and for credit - need PE credits to graduate anyway). In order to take the course - you would (as with other courses requiring a physical) pass a basic psychological exam. Then - upon passing the course - you should be allowed to carry a concealed weapon (professors could, of course, take the course). Which may have been a huge deterrent and protective feature of this tragedy.

To top it off - our mental health services (as with most of our medical care) often just dump pills down a person's throat to calm them and never find the true problem. AND reaching out for even this help can ruin your entire future and people don't want to pursue needs of themselves or in this case others for the long term and always "badge" of mental illness that effects so many features of a future. This stigma should be changed to only reflect "dangerous" people who most likely will rage or act out on others.

We need to look at all the pieces of our changing world puzzle.

Posted by chrys at April 18, 2007 11:31 PM

Of course, the PC-ness can only continue. After all, if anyone dares to "judge" this poor bastard, you'll be villified! 'ol Cho can make his own reality because no one is allowed to tell him he's nuts -- that might offend him. This is very clearly a result of political correctness and the active lack of religion that's been gathering speed in this country for decades.

Posted by Ogre at April 19, 2007 09:14 AM

Outstanding post, GM! You have pierced through the fog to the truth.

Posted by Tim Birdnow at April 19, 2007 09:53 AM

Ogre said whatever I said better, shorter and more accurately!

Posted by chrys at April 19, 2007 10:08 AM

GM, great post. You indicate that New York and DC have tough gun laws and yet there are shootings. I will do you one better. VT has a gun free campus and yet there were shootings. this in and of itself should make it clear that rules against guns do not prevent their use.

As for the response to what Fred said about fighting back. This response presupposes that rushing the student was the only choice. This is inside the 9 dots type thinking. None of us knows how we would respond in this situation but those who have been taught to resist know that rushing someone is not the only means of defense.

We heard that some of the kids had time to try and barricade a door. There were weapons in the classroom. There were chairs, tables, possibly lecterns, and other items. I am not second guessing but to answer what Fred thinks he could have done with one round every 2 seconds, how about standing by the door with chairs and bashing his brains out when he enters? How about knocking him down with a table leg or chair and stabbing him to death with pens and pencils through the throat. A table leg across the throat upon entrance to the room would have removed a lot of his determination. A fire extinguisher pointed at his face and discharged would have blinded him and allowed an assault. Turn out the lights when hiding by the door and make it harder for him to see what to shoot before bashing him with the improvised weapons. This is all speculation but it points out that rushing the guy is not the only thing to do and that weapons come in many forms.

Once again, I was not there (and might have perished if I were but it would have been while trying to fight him) and do not intend to second guess but it is obvious that those who have a will to fight will find a means to do so.

GM is right that you can not stop a person hell bent on killing. This is seen time and again. The most we can do is be prepared and ready to react when required.

Posted by Big Dog at April 19, 2007 10:56 AM

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