Monday, May 7, 2007

Another Shooting. This Time it's My University.

So, OK, here we go again.

This morning, Monday, I called in to my internship site to double-check a couple of details about the day, since we interns are in the two-week wind-down period and things are in flux. A friend and colleague told me on the phone that a Lesley student, an undergrad, had been shot and killed this weekend in nearby Somerville.

It was exactly four weeks ago today that a lonely and under-served young man took two guns into the halls of Virginia Tech and stopped 33 lives (if you include his own. And don't get me started on that one. The media didn't count the shooter as one of the dead, and the bells around the country rang only 32 times the next day in tribute. They couldn't wait 15 seconds, and then toll once more? This would be caving in to weak-minded liberals, to say that he suffered too, or that his family is maybe having a little bit of a hard time? But I digress.). If you're a glutton for punishment, I just reposted the rant that event inspired (originally email only) just below this post.

Interestingly, and in a related story, one of my clients who I hadn't seen for many months came to my attention again last week. He showed up early in the Fall semester because his best friend for years had been killed in a car when the driver crashed it, after engaging the police in a high speed chase (all started simply because the car was missing a license plate). The friend went through the back window. My client's other friends in the car went into the ICU; one stayed for days in a coma. My client was having nightmares of waking up in a coffin, of friends and family members dying. I won't go through all the other PTSD symptoms he experienced; too many and too depressing. At the time, I remember wanting to reach through the hardened plaster of pained silence in the room and into his chest and simply cradle his poor, deeply bruised heart for him. Vey, what a time for him.

He was again experiencing symptoms, pretty bad ones. And this was last week, before this other young man from campus was shot and killed, sitting in the front of a Cadillac late on a Saturday night. Tomorrow, my client will come in and sit before me, looking at me with those great pools of sorrow and honesty he has for eyes, and try to keep a manly firmness about him as he tells me about his nightmares, his inability to get his body out of bed on class days. The way the kids in his lower-income neighborhood make fun of the death of his friend.

Now, here is what I want to know.

What is wrong with us?

I don't just mean you and me, I mean the Big Us -- the Big U.S. of A. Have we so lost our way, our moral attunement, as a society that we think it's OK to let virtual children buy guns on a moment's notice?

Have we so lost our connection with our boys -- our precious, boisterous boys full of so much energy and potential -- that we allow them an understanding of manhood so twisted, and this is across all socioeconomic groups, that men kill themselves at four times the rate that women do?

Oh, I could go on and on. I shouldn't waste your time with my emotional rants.

What the ranting serves to cover up, I suppose, is that raw and highly vulnerable feeling of fragility that happens when, on a gorgeous, 65-degree spring day, the sunshine resplendent, the trees all glorious with pink and white blossoms, the air fresh and warm at the same time -- when, on such a day, Death barges in the door and barks a harsh "Aha! How do you like THIS?!"

We get thrust full-force into that scary existential space so rudely, without so much as a by-your-leave. We suddenly, chillingly feel, as my favorite author Michael Chabon says in his new book, "the way you [do when you] creep into a sick room, a cardiac ward, expecting a shock, reminders of mortality, grim truths about the body."

Boys flying through car windows. Boys pausing in relentless slaughter to drop off their home-made press kits at the post office, to ensure NBC receives them in time for the evening news. Boys climbing in the back of Cadillacs on fine spring nights to point guns at the back of heads, and pull triggers. Need I go on, invoke the ghosts of Columbine, the Amish slaughter, the workplace incidents, all within the last decade or so?

I know that these are separate incidents, sure. Of course they are -- separated by years, sometimes, and socioeconomic and geographic distance. By profile of victim, of perpetrator, of community.

Are they really that separate? I'm just asking. Tonight, as I sit here with this infernal knot in my solar plexus again, for the third time in the last nine months alone, I'm asking. Because I just don't want to feel all of this raw sadness all over again. Kids on a campus crying again. Counseling center put on alert again. Campus candlelight vigil again. Client in my office with nightmares again.

Somebody change the channel, huh? I've really had enough of this movie.

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