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Subject:  Virginia Tech lesson: We're all, in a way, to bl Date:  4/18/2007  3:13 AM
Author:  TMFSpiffyPop Number:  6259 of 768

You want to blame the person responsible. And you should. I do... even though I'm not generally the blaming type. In other words, I'm not the guy saying, "Why didn't the administration alert people?" (Actually, that kind of knee-jerk reaction slightly sickens me.) Or: "Why didn't his roommates incarcerate him?" Etc. Anyway, you want to blame the killer, and you should.

But then you want to blame... who else... the parents? Why not? It's very likely something was consistently horribly wrong in this family's dynamic, and there's just no way around that. At the very least, their son was extremely mentally sick, and either they didn't understand that well enough or they didn't know what to do. You can't not blame the parents, in a sense, since how we raise our kids has such a huge effect, for good or bad.

You want to blame his roommates or his classmates. And you can, if you like. People called him "Question Mark." It wasn't Lord-of-the-Flies nasty, but still, how telling. Let me tell you, though: I saw his two roommates on CNN tonight and I could not be more impressed by those guys. In them, could you not see yourself in college? They were trying to just get along or, in time, get by. They were trying to lead a "normal" college life, apart from the bizarre roommate they were stuck with. They took some steps at a few different points both to tell the guy he needed to shape up (stop stalking someone), etc., and then also to escalate to those in charge a bit. But they had no idea whether this was just one of those "weird guys on campus" -- didn't we all know a few, and perhaps we were considered weird ourselves! They had no idea what it would all come to. You want to blame his teachers, perhaps... although how eloquent and composed was his creative writing teacher, Professor Roy? Wow -- almost everyone on campus I saw interviewed was so well-spoken, balanced in their own character, real. You may want to blame them, but I don't really find blame productive or, here, justified.

And so you then begin to realize something a bit deeper.

You then begin to realize that if you want to blame anyone beyond the sick individual himself, you might as well just blame yourself. In a small way. But a serious way. Blame humanity. Because here's what's wrong: We're all guilty. We all have failed at various points in our lives to connect with people who need help. Most seriously sick young people are called "loners" only after they do something really bad. Then we hear they didn't reach out. We hear they had no friends. They were, in Dr. Henry Cloud's parlance, "disconnected." They were not part of us. We can blame them and their parents and their church and their roommates and their teachers and their society (their music, their videogames, their movies and TV, their culture), but we all share some blame too in failing to get them connected. I've occasionally thought about starting a new Internet site that is designed to connect everyone. Anyone who wasn't accounted for on that site -- anyone who didn't have, say, 4+ friends who could vouch for this person ("he/she is all right"), would at the very least get more attention or scrutiny from those around him. It's not Big Brother... it's more like Big Brothers -- the other one, the non-profit that aims to connect (there's that word again) young people to slightly less young people. Anyway, this is kind of happening on the Internet already, without necessarily needing Fools like me to create such sites. Moments in time that freeze tragically in our consciousness, like Virginia Tech on April 16, further advance our sensitivity to situations like this, and our understanding.

So before you spend much of any energy blaming anyone beyond the shooter, ensure that you have removed the log from your own eye. Ensure that you are taking personal steps in your own life -- your day-to-day -- reaching out to people who don't seem connected. Get them to say something. Interact -- you don't have to take them out to lunch or anything, if you don't have the time or don't want to. But make sure that cues like:

dark fiction writing
no friends
death-focus (in contrast to life-focus)
bizarre personal conduct
"I'm going to kill myself"

etc. -- all of which were present together in this guy (plus a bunch more cues) -- ensure, I'm saying, that this can't be said of you: that you didn't notice, or never made an effort. Strive both to remain connected yourself, and strive to connect -- to build trust, to empathize, to invite in, to speak truthfully, to extend unmerited favor -- to those around you.

In a world sometimes so truly upside-down that even South Korea's president feels he has to apologize for an incident like this week's, don't go looking for others' apologies. Instead, why not ask yourself what more you can do next time? Even if the unconnected around you aren't in any way homicidal or even if there's nothing life-threatening. Because there will always be a "next time" -- many such opportunities for you.

To close, here's a statistic most people don't know, and are shocked to learn. There is far more suicide in our society every year than homicide. You betcha; you could look it up. (The media don't report on suicide, but the 10 O'Clock News is always the first to lead with any and every homicide story they can possibly find.) The tragedy of 33 people dying is beyond anything that should happen in this world. But realize that what primarily happened this week began, out of chronology but in a psychologically true and essential way, with suicide. Mass shootings are actually a horrific but rare phenomenon. Suicide is not. Ask yourself why that is.

Connect. --DavidĀ 


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