By John Williams
“A 1st Sergeant handed me an ammo box of 240 rounds: the blood-stained rounds that my best friend had been using when he was shot and killed in an ambush, on a patrol that he wasn’t supposed to be on, one day after we were told we were going to be back home.”<br/>-Toby Hartbarger, Army SPC
For me, it was this story that my mind instantly recalled after I heard about the shootings in Virginia last week, for Virginia Tech leads U.S. civilian schools in sending officers to the U.S. Military.
It was a terrible tragedy, and I had heard of similar events before, but my thoughts intensified because the killings hit so close to home.
I realized then that so many people I know have experienced similar, instantaneously deep connections to other tragedies that have occurred in different ways across the globe. It is these lightning connections, these synapses firing without control, that I would like to address.
The tragedy at Virginia Tech (VT) is not an isolated incident, or an anomaly.
Though some argue that Cho was insane, and while I have no doubt this might be true, we as a society commit acts of similar insanity on a regular basis. We must take notice of the correlation between a guy like Cho and people like us.
The articles I have read about Cho try so hard to push him away from what we are; he was a loner, crazy, friendless, different. We point at the connections between his plays and his actions and wonder why his actions weren’t noticed, or prevented.
But what if we turn the camera on ourselves? It is much harder to look at the things we do — the video-game realities we spend time in, the films we see and books we read that are bound with senseless killing and violence — and ask the same questions.
There is a surge of inspection thrown onto this lone figure, Cho, yet we place hardly an ounce of introspection onto ourselves.
I would love to believe that the VT shootings were an isolated incident, that they were an anomaly, that I do not live in a world where such things can happen. But violent destruction is far too common an occurrence for me to believe that this is true.
In the span of four days just last week in Houston, Texas, there were three separate incidents of men shooting others before committing suicide.
There is constant and recurrent violence in our streets every day, especially in communities rife with poverty and oppression, such as New Orleans.
Every day Iraq sustains the level of two Virginia Tech massacres. Only two weeks ago, a student with a bomb killed 40 fellow students at the University of Baghdad.
I could go on, but I think most people realize that terrible things are happening, in different ways, to different degrees. Yet so often it seems as if we isolate these incidents, and pretend they don’t relate to the world at large.
But they do.
Last week we ran an editorial urging the country to leave those affected by the VT shootings a litle space. While allowing time for grief is one thing, removing yourself from the collective consciousness is another.
Everyone has to spend some time in grief: we all have jobs and classes, lives to live, and I’m not asking anyone to stop all that. What I am asking is for you to take as much time as you can spare to engage in these issues; examine the ways in which you can change, we can change.
Change personally, locally, nationally, and globally. Because these are not separate tragedies. Because we are all connected, and everything we do is connected.