Friday, February 15, 2008

On Empathy and Cleaning up Messes

Today, as I was walking from my office to my classroom, I imagined hearing the pucker sound of bullets popping on the pavement near my feet and zinging past my ears. Turning toward the roof of the medical building, I could picture a dark shape there, huddled against the cold, muzzle of his automatic weapon peeking out through his coat.

As quickly as the vivid daydream came, it left.

For a moment there I felt as I had at Pompeii when I first saw the plaster casts of people shielding themselves from heaps of volcanic ash; the sense that tragedies I'd only heard about happened to real people who had real lives and real bodies. That, given the right time and place, those bullets could have been real, slamming into my flesh and shattering my bones; raining little drops of my life onto the faces of my friends.

I'm truly horrified that violence like that happens so frequently and that I've become so desensitized to it that a news cast about school shootings feels like a television show or a movie.

There are so many things that need fixing- not just gun control or campus security- but underlying cultural issues. It seems hopeless and impossible. It's like that time, when I was a little kid, that my parents made me really clean my room. Sitting in a pile of junk and toys and clothing, I just didn't know where to start.

1 comment:

Zach Miller said...

Well, gun control and campus security and all that is well and good, but I don't think we'll ever get rid of crazy people. That's something I never understand about the aftermath of pyscho killers (like that Cho guy last year, or the Columbine shooters): The media, the survivors always talk about upping gun control, blaming the media or video games or TV, etc. They're looking for an external cause.

Some people are just born nuts. And you can't predict that. You can't safeguard against that. You can make it tougher for pyschos to get guns, though. President Bush just signed a piece of legislation (which many people, for some reason, oppose) that would make it illegal to sell guns to people with mental illnesses. I am all about that!

I think of guns like I think of alcohol and drugs: there's just no good reason to have one. There is no health benefit and, in fact, it's usually harmful. I think that's especially true for people like the Columbine killers, Cho, or this most recent killer.