"One of the few good things about modern times: If you die horribly on television, you will not have died in vain. You will have entertained us." ~ Kurt Vonnegut
I've been reluctant to write about this week's mass murder at Virginia Tech, but I want to be able to look back at this blog a year from now to remember what I was thinking. How can anyone not think about this tragedy?
What scares me most: Guns have the NRA, so we all know that sensible gun control laws are not going to happen. Mentally ill people like me don't have Charlton Heston and Tom Selleck to stand up for us.
No, we get the Scientology kooks like Tom Cruise, who condemn psychiatry and tell everybody to take vitamins. "My" celebrity advocates aren't going to get behind more federal funding for sensible mental health treatment.
But the public wants "something" done. What I foresee are laws making it easier to lock people up and keep them locked up without funding the therapy programs and medical research we need.
Speaking for herself and her family, the killer's sister Sun Kyung Cho said:
We are humbled by this darkness. We feel hopeless, helpless and lost ... He has made the world weep. We are living a nightmare.
My heart goes out to them. I know it's not a popular opinion, but the way I see it, her brother was a victim too. A victim of an illness that robbed him of rational thought and an inadequate and underfunded mental health system.
According to an article on Yahoo News, mass killings have become more common in America since the 1960s:
"I know that there were high-powered guns before," [criminologist James Alan Fox] said. "But this weaponry is just so much more pervasive than it was."
Australia had a spate of mass public shooting in the 1980s and '90s, culminating in 1996, when Martin Bryant opened fire at the Port Arthur Historical Site in Tasmania with an AR-15 assault rifle, killing 35 people.
Within two weeks the government had enacted strict gun control laws that included a ban on semiautomatic rifles. There has not been a mass shooting in Australia since.
In the same article, a criminologist with the Minnesota State Department of Corrections blames economics:
Duwe found that mass murder was just as common during the 1920s and early 1930s as it is today. The difference is that then, mass murderers tended to be failed farmers who killed their families because they could no longer provide for them, then killed themselves. Their crimes embodied the despair and hopelessness of the Dust Bowl and the Great Depression, the sense that they and their families would be better off in the hereafter than in the here and now.
And Fox agrees:
[He] speculates that the increasing popularity of workplace killings, and public shootings generally, may be partly due to decreasing economic security and increasing inequality. America increasingly rewards its winners with a disproportionate share of wealth and adoration, while treating its losers to a heaping helping of public shame.
"We ridicule them. We vote them off the island. We laugh at them on `American Idol,'" Fox said.
Just like on "Survivor," one person can make one decision that changes the outcome of the game. When the rules say anyone from any background can walk into a store, lay down a credit card, and walk out with a semi-automatic weapon and enough ammunition to wipe out all his enemies real or imagined, this is how I look at it:
The tribe has spoken.
If we want different results, we have to change the rules.