Wednesday, April 18, 2007

Resurrection of Spirit: A personal reflection

Most bloggers that I read have posted either prayers, comments or observations on the Virginia Tech tragedy. I have posted reflections by both Barbara Crafton+ and my bishop, +Johncy Itty on the matter.

I have watched some of the interviews with parents of slain students yesterday and now, today. I don't know or pretend to know how these moms and dads--as well as sisters and brothers--are holding it together at a time like this. It is amazing to hear them and see them talk about their sons and daughters, no longer living, cut down in the prime of their young adulthood; their futures burning brightly ahead of them.

But in hearing these parents speak, the light of their children is not completely out, nor will it be. These are parents ready to celebrate the lives of their fallen children and remember the best of what made these young men and women the outstanding students they were to them and their classmates.

The vigil held last night on the campus was amazing to see live on whatever network you were watching. The images so powerful in their stillness and silence. There was such strength and hope in the midst of devastation, I was moved with emotion and could feel their collective grief and disbelief all at once, as well as their determination never to forget their fallen friends and classmates.

A memorial fund has already been set up for contributions in honor of the students and professors killed. Presumably it will be used for scholarships in their names and, possibly a physical memorial at some point in the future.

We learn today that a judge in 2005 had ruled that the young man--the shooter--was a danger to himself and others. We also learned that two English professors tried to raise the alarm about this troubled young man, but no one would take them seriously or consider further action to protect the individual or the community. We ask ourselves: Why were these two women not listened to or taken seriously? Why, after it had been noted that his behavior was questionable by others, that no one else reported his disturbing behavior? So many questions, too few answers.

"...the more attention you give a thing, the more powerful it becomes..."

We need to also remember that the more attention you pay to the shooter and the circumstances surrounding his actions, the more power you give him and others like him to do the same. We have seen this already: the campus scare at the U of Minnesota in Minneapolis, Springwater High School and Willamette High School in Oregon; the first a shooting, the second, a bomb blast. Thankfully no one was hurt but again it tells us that things were not coincidental, what with all the media coverage on the VT shooter. There are many lone individuals who are hurting and needing help, this is obvious. The ones we should be paying more attention to are the victims, living and dead, and giving them the power that was taken from them instead.

The politicalization of the gun issue is disturbing. Even the President and presidential candidates knew that this was not the time to raise gun law questions or comment accordingly. This is a time of mourning and grief, of trying to support and comfort the survivors and the families. Gun laws should be the last thing on anyone's mind. Why? Because no matter what laws you pass, if someone wants to do something to harm others, they will find a way to get a weapon--regardless of what kind--and nothing can stop them if they are determined enough to carry out their plan.

Many will not agree with me, but that is the beauty of a free society. And I would not change it for the world. We live in the freest nation on the planet. It is far from perfect but I am thankful to be an American, to have gone through our public higher education system and that I survived to witness some of the most horrendous events and acts of compassion as a result, in our history, but also some of the best.

The parents of slain students want to memorialize their children in the lives they led, full of promise and example. The grief will hit them when they receive the body of their child and it will be the hardest thing they have ever had to face. We need to uphold all of them in prayer. Light a candle and remember them all, including the shooter. His parents are grieving too.

Photo One is by Sam E., Virginia Tech student, courtesy of flickr.
Photo Two is by Kevin Cupp, Virginia Tech student, courtesy of flickr.


MadPriest said...

It is difficult to obtain even an ordinary rifle in the U.K. A gun can be got illegally but you would have to know where to look, and most of us don't. However, we have had far too many incidents like the Virginia shootings over recent years. So, I agree with you, entirely, gun control will have no effect towards stopping this sort of outrage. What would reduce the chances of it happening in both our countries would be a lot more money spent on serious mental health services, rather than petty but lucrative pseudo-psychiatry, and an ene to the stigma surrounding madness so that sufferers or friends and family are less scared of looking for help early on.

Catherine + said...

Thank you for your observations, MP. Much appreciated.

Cecilia said...

Catherine, I agree that now is not the time to hammer the gun issue-- it is properly a time to mourn. But I also strongly believe that nowhere in the world-- nowhere, absolutely nowhere-- does any country have the statistics of gun injuries and death that we have in the US. We are deluding ourselves if we think that our lax laws and our craven bowing to the NRA have nothing to do with this. They have everything to do with it.

I feel strongly about this. I would certainly never preach what I have just written on a Sunday following such a tragedy. I agree with you, that now is the time for tears, not recriminations. But what will it take, in this country, to get it through our heads?

Thank you for inviting comment, and for understanding that, indeed, there will be varying views.

And thank you too for the sheer beauty of the photos you post, and for the heartfelt reflections.

Pax, C.

Catherine + said...

Cecelia, thank you for your comment and perspective. I appreciate your calmness very much on this issue. For me it is a matter of immediate priority regarding VT: victims first, families, friends, community next.

With what we know from yesterday, if the judge who declared him an imminent danger to himself and others had committed him as in inpatient, it would have shown up on the background check and the guns would not have been sold to Cho.

Threatening the owner of the store in Roanoke is reactionary at best. He followed the law and did everything by the book. If we threaten legitimate merchants with death threats, we are no better than the shooter himself.

Glad you enjoy the images, as bittersweet as they are.

Eileen said...

I don't think gun control would have prevented this situation.

People who want to hurt others will find a way.

This troubled young man was on a mission. He would have found a way to carry out his plan - even if it meant obtaining a gun illegally, or stealing a gun and ammo.

I don't believe in owning a gun - I'd hate to have my kids killed by one, and I don't think I'd ever be able to use one, myself.

Now is the time to mourn. Tomorrow we can decide what, if any, action should be taken. And who, if anyone, should be held accountable.

Catherine + said...

Eileen, thank you for your comment. And I believe you are correct about anyone who wants to wreak some havoc, they will find a way. Yes, now is a time for mourning and comforting; the rest will inevitably come later.

Bosco said...

There are a quarter of a billion guns in USA. As you say, this is not an appropriate time for USA gun debate - but, writing from a country where not even the police are armed, I see this debate in your country as pretty stagnant anyway - with neither of your political parties interested in raising it now.

I cannot imagine another country where a presidential candidate (Mitt Romney) would lie that he owns a gun when he doesn't (nor is he a lifelong hunter as he claimed). Guns and USA appear to go together like peanut-butter and jelly.

Having watched your political system and visited your country on a number of occasions and observed your efforts to spread your freedom across the globe and having visited countries on every continent except Antarctica, I am yet to be convinced that USA is "the freest nation on the planet."

I share MadPriest's sentiments and thank you Catherine for sensitively opening this discussion.

liturgy: Christian worship and spirituality

Catherine + said...

Dear Bosco, thank you for visiting and for sharing your experience from many places across the globe. How I would love to travel as you do!

I guess as this American [me, myself and I] can tell, I have no other country really to compare the US to as I have not travelled to experience other societies. I have been brought up to believe that we are the freest nation in the world, though there have been constraints imposed over the last 10 years that I question considerably.

I am enlightened by the fact that in NZ there are not armed police. For me that is an eye opener, and I thank you for it. It is my hope to experience many cultures and countries in years to come.

Thank you for understanding that now is not the time for debate on gun laws. It is a time to mourn.

Blessings to you always, Bosco+.