Very busy time the last two weeks, and I’m not out of it yet. I’ve been storing up some thoughts for the weblog, and hope to get them up soon.
One thought in passing this morning. Anybody whose first impulse in reaction to the Virginia Tech shootings is to pontificate about gun control (for or against), video games, masculinity, Asian culture or anything else should be ashamed of themselves.
You can talk about any given recent homicide in Philadelphia as part of a structural problem, and likely be right, though any single incident might be idiosyncratic. Mass shootings like this one, though we often collectively imagine them to be common or systematic, are largely individual and aberrant events. If they stem from any recurrent, underlying social problems, those social problems are much more granular in psychological and cultural terms than “video games” or even “masculinity”.
Even that is a debate for later. Is it so hard to let the dead lie in peace for a few days, to reflect quietly and somberly on the horror and pain of it? Do we have to domesticate every event into the simple-mindedness of single-cause arguments, master the meaninglessness that sometimes comes with being human with the jabber of the punditocracy? Can’t we just reach out collectively to put a quiet hand on the shoulder of those who have lost friends, family and colleagues?
“Do we have to domesticate every event into the simple-mindedness of single-cause arguments, master the meaninglessness that sometimes comes with being human with the jabber of the punditocracy? Canâ€™t we just reach out collectively to put a quiet hand on the shoulder of those who have lost friends, family and colleagues?”
Wonderfully put, Tim; thank you. Reminders like these, in the midst of our all-opinion-all-the-time world, can’t come often enough.
And, should anyone affected by this tragedy happen to read this post, you have my prayers and deepest condolences.
I totally agree, here in the UK the shootings had barely occurred before we were inviting pro and anti-gun control lobbyists onto our news programs to analyse the ‘US attitude to guns and violence’.
The idiots on both sides of that debate wasted no time in voicing their accusations/defences. I’ve contempt for both, frankly.
Thanks, Tim. This morning I watched a CNN reporter back a kid she was interviewing into a corner so that he had to utter a media clichÃ©. This was a kid who had likely saved some people’s lives, his own included, by shoving a table in front of a door and preventing the killer from reentering the room where he had already shot many. At the end of the young man’s description of those events, which had to be hard for him, she asked him pointedly how it felt to be called a hero. He burst into tears and finally said something to the effect that he was just glad he could be there.
Is it so hard to let the dead lie in peace for a few days, to reflect quietly and somberly on the horror and pain of it?
Yes, of course it is. Horror and pain are commodities with short shelf-lives, and if they’re going to be leveraged, then they have to be used now, or else you need an echo chamber to maintain a high level of horror/pain rhetoric in order to get anything done.
Seriously, I do think that anyone who’s main response to this kind of event is “I told you so” needs to be ignored, journalists filling air time with speculation and cliche should be chastised, and I’ve got no argument with your rejection of monocausal advocacy. But I also think that discussions will happen, and though the event itself is tragic, it also might be good for us to have a discussion of these issues (whatever these issues are) in the light of concrete examples rather than abstract concerns.
Of course we’ll talk, all of us. I think we should. How can we not wrestle with the meaning of such a thing? It’s just that normally I don’t find the lack of profundity in our public spaces to be a big deal–in fact, normally I’d defend mass culture against the charge that it lacks profundity. But right now? The lack is painful.
I guess the question should be, then, why is this case different, at least in your eyes?
Well said, Tim.
Very great agreement.
Tim, I agreed with your post so much I agreed with it even before I knew it existed. (I posted this over at Mostly Harmless about 5 hours before your post, when the time difference is taken into account, and I’d love to hear your answer to the question posed in it.)
Lindsay Beyerstein disagrees thoughtfully (probably without having read your post, is my guess).