Inconceivable Violence

20 04 2007

Like most everyone, I’ve been following the story of the slain students and faculty at Virginia Tech. It seems like every hour there’s a new sensational, horrific headline. As more and more information comes to light, we see the almost unfathomable extent of this gunman’s mental illness, and we see intimate portraits of the 32 victims and their lives through the eyes of those who knew them best and loved them most. How do you NOT share their profound sadness?

And then on Wednesday I watched a video of NYC Mayor Bloomburg at a press conference for the bi-partisan coalition called Mayors Against Illegal Guns where he said that “30 Americans are murdered EVERY DAY with guns.” And then on Thursday, I picked up my New York Times and saw this headline, “Bombs Rip Through Baghdad, Killing 171.” And I ask, how is it that we DON’T FEEL the same profound sadness for those who experienced violent deaths around the country and the world?

Mayor Bloomberg touched on the issue, and Jon Stewart tried to nail it during his interview with Ali A. Allawi, former Iraq Minister of Defense, on Wednesday evening’s Daily Show. He asked Allawi how the people of Iraq handle the type of carnage on a daily basis that we saw on the Virginia Tech campus on Monday. Allawi answered that the scale of violence in Iraq is “inconceivable.” Iraqis aren’t “handling” it. They don’t have a secure home base from which to grieve and heal. Rather, they are fleeing the country for their own safety.

 Yes, what happened on the Virginia Tech campus is horrible, tragic. We should grieve for these victims and their families. But to Jon Stewart’s point, we should not be so caught up in it that we forget to grieve for victims elsewhere. And to Mayor Bloomberg’s point, we need to take action where and how we can. Would you agree?

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