I walked into Applebee's on Monday night, coming off of a day in which "the national topic" changed from Imus to Virginia Tech -- from a bad news story to a worse news story.
Let me say that the massacre at Virginia Tech is atrocious, heinous, hideous, and senseless. The family and friends of each victim are handed a loss, for which the country's sympathy, condolences, and prayers are thin comfort. I wish for the reversal of the whole day's events, and absent that I wish for the repose of the souls of the departed.
The bar keep at Applebee's in Connecticut was a college-age young man who was clearly steamed and affected by the events at Virginia Tech. It wasn't personal -- he said that he had just one acquaintance at Virginia Tech, and that person was uninjured.
To be offended and flatly angry about it does not require a personal connection at that campus. Students everywhere (those who can identify with another, outside of their own shoes) are going to feel attacked and violated. All corners of the educational system are impacted.
I've got to believe that the young man I talked to didn't know anyone involved in 9/11 either; if he is college age now, he might have been in middle school when 9/11 happened. He voiced his view of a comparison between the two. His point was that when one heard about 9/11, there were foreigners on the other end of the attack. Hence, there was a country or a group responsible, and it was evident that a fight was on. I suppose that he finds it more comprehensible when the blow is struck by an opponent. This massacre at Virginia Tech is therefore less comfortable.
Well, friends and family of 9/11 victims would not like to hear that their losses are more "acceptable" to a distanced observer. At this point, more could be said about those friends, those families, and those victims; but, I will steer this article back to the 4/16 incident.
At the other end of his comparison, I feel that the young man is right. As a red blooded American, it is natural to feel the affront of a profound attack and violation in this massacre. While my public statements don't usually go there, it is appropos for red blooded Americans to mutter under their breath, "some bastard has gotta pay!" And, the young man is right in that -- here is the difference from 9/11: There's nobody to hit back.
'If only there were a small arab or central asian country that we could invade in response!' I suppose that if I was a neo-conservative, that I might say "Pin it on Uzbekistan. That place needs a regime change." But, for the record, I am not a neo-conservative -- I am a Practical Idealist, and against any and all gratuitous government killing.
But I understand the feeling. At street level America, the knee is jerking, and it would be satisfying if we could identify a bad guy to put away in the service of justice for Virginia Tech.
I suppose that if nothing had happened to Imus, he could now have snide remarks about Virginia Tech. We would all be asking (as we did with his Rutgers comments), "What has this country come to?" But, Imus is last week's story. We still have not answered last week's question, "What has this country come to?" But, now it has come to this. Virginia Tech is going to feel like a remarkable injustice without closure.
We are now face to face with another injustice for which there will be no easy answers. I may feel that 6/4, 9/11, and 4/16 are kindred in that way -- remarkable injustices without closure. Does our nation include any way to obtain redress? I expect that soon, we will hear many proposals about gun control. (Mine says that yes, you have second amendment rights, but just like a car, please show license, registration, and insurance for your gun. Liabilities can shift based on the context of a gun's use.)
I do not want to expand on my proposal nor be a gun control advocate. Mine is two simple sentences between parentheses, above. More generally, politicians ought to look around quickly for some form of redress about this matter. At street level America, besides anger about this, there are voters. And, who else can we take out our frustrations upon, but for politicians? This is, at least, John's word of advice to the wise. Virginia Tech may come to symbolize more than a tragedy. It may come to symbolize a certain powerlessness, felt among normal Americans, in the face of much that is wrong.