Monday, May 7, 2007

A Rant After the Virginia Tech Shootings

Following is the text of an email sent to friends and family on April 17, 2007, the day after the multiple shootings at Virginia Tech:


Can't help a few musings about yesterday's events on campus at Virginia Tech. As an intern at a college counseling center, I did feel more affected by the events than I would have otherwise, especially since, just last Fri., I attended a day-long conference on depression and suicide prevention on college campuses. How ironic.

One of the first things I heard this morning was a pundit calling the shooter "evil." My reflex response was, "How absurd; he was mentally ill." I don't have much doubt on that one.

Lesley University is a tiny, touchy-feely, liberal arts campus in located in liberal Cambridge -- about as far in every way as you can get from Va. Tech and still be a university. Nevertheless, when I got off the bus this a.m., I shuddered for a moment before stepping on campus.

There were a couple of general announcements put out around campus today, and in one, the president (without consulting us) declared the counseling center open to all who needed to talk. Great idea. Let us know next time!

My clients didn't mention it today during sessions. Afterward, I went to the gym on campus; the TVs there are unfailingly tuned to utter teenage nonsense. They were both tuned to all-news channels with live reports from the campus in VA.

Life is strong... and also fragile. Love somebody today.


P.S. And now, for the Op-Ed. Skip this if you don't like pompous ranting. My two cents:

They can arm campus security, they can put video cameras in the dorms, they can screen every incoming student. Nothing's going to help much until we start seeing this mass violence as a community crisis -- in high schools, colleges, workplaces -- and start working from a community *health* model, including addressing the violence permeating the culture like the very air we breathe; isolation derived from faux-relationships on-line and on cell phones (I see it in my clients); and much, much more.

Yes, I'm talking about the impossible -- but ppl in power will need to have the courage to stand up and call it like it is. Our society is ill and getting iller. The one-note-johnny pundits drive me crazy (It's a security issue! No, you're wrong, it's a mental health issue! No, it's a faculty issue!). I think the answer is, it's a political issue (gun control; school reform; the war drawing down resources; etc.), a gender issue (why are all the killers males? Hmmmm, ever hear of "gender roles"?), a public health issue (why aren't these ppl getting picked up on the the mental/physical health radar? There are lots of knotty reasons, but no excuse for the lack of proper health in this country), a media issue (movies, videos games)... and on and on...

The culture of alienation and readily available violence is so overwhelming that no one bothers to notice it anymore. Today's news has me wondering what we can do to at least start to turn it around. Anyone have any ideas?

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