It is a sad, shocking day. This time the gunman was asian, he was a senior undergraduate student who wore a baseball cap and blue jeans. In the past we have had troubled children, poor, middle class and well-to-do teenagers, and disgruntled employees pulling the trigger. They've taken out scores of innocent workers, students, teachers, professors, doctors, nurses, techs. With the exception of Columbine, they have always worked alone.
The innocence that made our general society believe in goodness in the 1950's is gone, a mere memory that exists only in movies. No longer do we assume that people are doing things for a greater good. It's everyman for himself. It goes beyond the "me" generation, but may in fact be its orphan child. Self-centeredness affects how we live. Everything is gotten now. Everything must work out, no matter if it was not meant to be or if a person has not worked for it. Everything must be perfect, even though perfection is impossible. We do not give unless we get something material in return. And conflicts with others usually result in a total break off with someone, thus circumventing the complexities of understanding and compromise.
This creates a rougher, cruder, less civilized and less humane world. Where a newly rich woman driving an SUV through Beverly Hills thinks nothing of flipping you off if you drive too slow, or a man swears in front of his kids when he has to stand in a line with everyone else. There are people who blame others for their misfortunes and think nothing of repeating it to everyone, or worse, taking a worthless case to court. And sadly, there are those who discount mental health help because of the stigma, electing to ignore a gnawing desperation inside, or rambling, erratic behavior. It can be a spiteful society where there seems to be no solutions except to lash out in a multitude of ways. And in the most extreme, taking a gun and shooting 33 people on a bucolic mountain campus in Virginia.
In 1989, Patrick Edward Purdy stood in back of a school yard in my hometown of Stockton and opened fire killing five children. He was mentally ill. He had the words freedom", "victory", and "Hezbollah" crudely scrawled onto his AK-47, and on his flak jacket, were "PLO", "Libya", and "death to the Great Satin" (sic). Like all the others, he took his own life. Clearly, we have not progressed. 18 years later, we have yet another psychotic gunman, an English major, who has reaped death and sorrow .
Why or how the intricacies of a civilized society eluded these murderers, we may never know. But it does seem that somewhere along the way, we've compromised ourselves for the "me-ness" that drives lives, that creates public policy that favors abstractions over human care, or creates business practices that negatively drain our personal lives.
The spiritual component of who we are --faith, hope and patience, that guides and helps us to not only choose good, but to help others get and stay on the same path is no longer center. The motto of Virginia Tech is "Invent The Future." Now more than ever, we need to do just that.
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