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Burnett's Urban Etiquette

Tuesday, April 17, 2007

Virginia Tech

There is not much to say about this other than it's sad and bananas all at the same time.

Outside of the 9/11 terror attacks, the occasional domestic plane crash, and combat fatalities, you never hear of this many people being killed at once in/from this country.

There's no explaining it either. That's where the bananas part comes in. It's almost pointless to ask why. They say the shooter wrote dark things. OK. I think dark thoughts sometimes. So do some of you. What separates us from the poop-flinging primates is our ability and instinct to never, ever, ever, ever, ever act out in accordance with that occasional dark thought.

So why can't some people control that? Sure, there's legitimate mental illness. That explains some folks becoming killers. But for once, I wish a spree/serial/mass killer would not commit suicide in the end, 'cause I'd like to know what he was thinking.

A buddy and I were discussing this yesterday, and he speculated that this is an example - an extreme example, but an example nonetheless - of some younger folk not being properly groomed these days to deal with failure or loss.

I'm not sure I agree with my guy 100%, but I see where he's going with it.

When I was a kid I had the misfortune of my little league baseball teams being coached by my dad. I say "misfortune," 'cause when you're the son of the coach and the coach is a strict military man you catch more grief than your teammates for errors and what not. On the other hand, the discipline he put on us whipped us into shape. And year after year we won our championships. But there was the occasional loss. And while we were kids and it hurt like hell to lose, we pretty much took it in stride 'cause my dad and the other boys parents pretty much made it clear to us early on that there was no shame in coming in second if you had fun, tried your best, etc. I see kids today sometimes go nuts when they lose 'cause they're not familiar with the concept. I've seen little leagues where they won't even keep score for fear of giving the kids a complex by declaring one side winner and one side loser.

Same goes with dating. I got taught pretty early you don't always get the girl you want. So what? Find another one.

A loved one dies. You grieve. You miss them. You embrace their memory and keep living your life.

The list goes on. Weren't you taught to deal with the bad/sad/mad?

The Virginia Tech shooter is said to have had some serious mental issues. But I think my guy might be onto something.

In the mean time, R.I.P. to the innocent.

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23 Comments:

  • It gets to the point where you expect the shooter to kill himself in the end - that's how these tragedies have ended lately. Copycats of overseas suicide bombings, perhaps?

    By Blogger The Sarcasticynic, at 4:47 PM  

  • That copycat thing is scary, Sarc. I wouldn't want to be a college kid right about now. Thankfully the semester's almost over and folks have the summer to go home and rejuice their nerve and buy body armor before they return to school in the fall.

    By Blogger James Burnett, at 4:52 PM  

  • There was a time when this sort of thing was unthinkable. When I was a kid in the 70s people used to drive to school with hunting rifles in their gun racks. Never caused a stir. Pistols in glove compartments. No big deal. People didn't act out like this. They used to just suffer in silence, or off themselves, but today the nutters decide to commit "suicide by cop", or they just take it out on everyone around them and then shoot themselves in the end. Inexplicable. Beyond the pale. The antithesis of everything a healthy person believes or would do.

    The notion is that something has changed in our society to make people, mostly young men, think that this sort of thing is an option if you are not happy in your life? I can't imagine what that would be. The knee-jerk answer will be that it's the gun culture, but just about everyone I know has guns, and I live in an area that is slathered in guns, and it's been a long time since this sort of thing happened here. Since the Luby's massacre, which happened down the road from where I live, Texas passed a law allowing us to get licenses to carry concealed handguns. It hasn't happened here since.

    It turns out Virginia Tech fought actively against it's faculty and students being able to carry concealed handguns for their own protection on campus, thinking that the campus police would be able to deal with this sort of thing. Well, we see how effective the police were. Infuriates me to think that these poor people were basically made into sheep by their own administration, who set this nutter up to have a free chance to kill as many people as he wished. Imagine if that Israeli prof had been carrying. In stead of having to give his life to save his students, he could have taken out the shooter and ended this incident at its beginning. Someone needs to be able to shoot back, because I don't think there are any gun free zones. Very sad.

    By Blogger Fathairybastard, at 5:28 PM  

  • I sometimes wonder if the shooter kills themselves because they know they are in SOOO much trouble that there isn't any other avenue for them to take.

    By Anonymous Karmyn R, at 7:22 PM  

  • The suicides, IMHO, happens for the reason that generations like mine and younger take little to no responsibility at times for our actions. They can't even FATHOM facing the real music of consequence, and hence, that lack of conscience also allows the individual to rationalize insane revenge.

    This is horrific and sad, but a sign of the times, I'm afraid.

    By Blogger Tiggerlane, at 9:03 PM  

  • AOL posted 2 of his plays. If the subject matter of the plays provides any glimpse into what his "issues" might be, he had a doozie or two.

    I concur that some of us learn how to deal with pain/loss/disappointment/trauma and some of us don't. He seems like one who didn't.

    This was awful. How do you make someone get the help they need?

    By Blogger Lex, at 10:43 PM  

  • He's got a point about young people not being prepared for loss or failure. College professors have to deal with kids coming up to them and DEMANDING better grades when they didn't do the work for it, or their work wasn't good enough. We also have Moms calling up companies that don't hire their little precious and screaming at the boss. I'm telling you, it's crazy.

    By Blogger Jay, at 11:18 PM  

  • I always wonder why, IN GOD'S NAME, the person didn't just commit suicide in the FIRST place.

    I don't understand this need to take people with them.

    By Blogger Pamela, at 12:40 AM  

  • lex - He was in therapy. His professors were alarmed at his creative writing and he went to the school counselors or something. But of course they can't say anything about it because of privacy issues.

    Anyway, while I don't know that I agree that this is what caused the whole incident, I do think that people are too afraid to fail. I've heard of teachers using green and blue pens to correct papers because parents complain that a red pen is too harsh. People today are pansies. I got back a final paper today in my English class. I was proud of my thesis and my support, but I left the whole thing until the day before and barely made it to class on time to turn it in. As a consequence, I didn't get to proofread the thing and when I got it back today I was mortified at some of my errors. I actually ended a paragraph mid-sentence. I don't know what happened to the rest of the paragraph, or if I just never completed that sentence and figured I'd go back. I spelled things incorrectly, totally missed typing some words, and had copy+pasted ideas into random paragraphs that they weren't meant to go in. I knew that I had paid for my procrastination because my professor circled and commented on every little thing I did wrong. I prepared myself for the worst as I flipped to the last page and prayed that I at least passed hoping she could see through my technical difficulties to my brilliance.

    I got an A+.

    I didn't deserve it. I barely deserved to pass. If that. But everyone bellyaches so much that perhaps she just felt ignoring all of those things would keep more students from complaining because they couldn't handle the reality of their shitty work. I see professors all the time react to idiotic and just plain wrong statements with, "well, I wouldn't put it like that exactly..." because everyone is so terrified and personally offended to be faced with the truth that they aren't perfect 100% of the time. I kind of resent her for not grading my fairly. Why should I try at all next time if I can get by with this crap?

    By Blogger hyacinths and biscuits, at 12:41 AM  

  • i'm a dark thinker. i have a private blog that no one is allowed to see that has some shit on there that would probably curl some peoples hair. its a matter of dealing.

    there has to be an outlet for the emotions that get bottled up. these days people and kids are taught to be sensetive. what happens when that goes too far? everyone is overly sensetive now. everyone is in therapy. everyone cant cope.

    our generation is the generation of the depressant. everyone has some form of depression. there is no such thing as sad.

    so how do we fix it? we don't. we live through it and survive. its such a horrible situation.

    By Blogger Yas, at 3:06 AM  

  • James, after watching CNN (Anderson C 360) last night, I don't think it was just about the loser thing, although it surely had something to do with his profile in the overall picture. One of the reporters interviewed his roommates and his English teacher. There were signs, but none strong enough for him to be seriously dealt with-- he stalked girls, he took pictures of students from under his desk ... etc; He even had cops come to his room for the stalkings, and was even sent to counseling. If all this is true, he was one seriously disturbed human being. But then again, there are a lot of weirdo roommates in college and people like Marilyn Manson writing weirdo songs and performing looking like a total whacko ... where does one draw the line without infringing on civil liberties I think is the real question here. And also, what if he had not been able to buy a gun? That was just way too easy.

    That being said, yes, I think it's important for people to know how to be good losers as well as winners. Perfectionism is good as a means, not an end.

    By Blogger Manola Blablablanik, at 9:24 AM  

  • My son is in college in Michigan, at a small, private engineering school. Even though Flint is hundreds of miles away, I wasn't the only parent calling the school - as if they hadn't already heard what had happened.

    Knee-jerk reaction, I know, but that's my baby boy.

    I don't know what the answer is. I think it's more than just giving everybody trophies or not keeping score or the latest Xbox game, but I don't have any answers.

    It's so sad. For everyone.

    By Blogger SWF41, at 12:04 PM  

  • I don't blame these kids--I blame their parents, especially the parents at the back end of the Booomer/Me Generation who grew up on the I'm Ok, You're OK bullshit. The kids can handle anything that gets thrown at them. It's the parents who have a fetish about an idyllic childhood and complain that their child doesn't get to have one.

    An idyllic childhood is not one where the parents never have a crying child. The idyllic childhood is one where the parents never cause the child to cry without justification or sane reason. In our fervor to prevent abuse, we are slowly taking away inherent strength. Every parent wants to be the "good guy" and no one wants to be the mean asshole who tells the kids what they need to hear in the way they need to hear it at the right time. Which is earlier rather than later.

    Everyone here remembers the first time that mom or dad wigged out on you and flipped because of something you did. And it was indeed your fault. What you learned, however, is not that mom and dad are meanies who hate you (although at the time that was probably the case), but you learned exactly what button you could push and what button you could not. You learned restraint.

    Parents are so used to feeling guilty about something that they've lost their spine. I would be mean dad today, even though mean dad in my day was the guy who came home drunk every night and even beat the neighbor's kids for no apparent reason (although the real reason was the wrong eyeball--silverback instincts never die). Now mean dad is the guy who didn't break his wallet to buy his kid the newest expensive piece of crap that would be broken the next day. Why is that? Because dad (and mom) are showered with a shit bombs of guilt from the time they wake up until the time they go to sleep about their kids. Then, when somebody does lift a finger to help their brats, they get all hinky because someone figured out that they sometimes suck as parents. Nobody's dad is like Ward Cleaver; everybody's dad has a little Archie Bunker in them.

    So I say it's high time to allow corporal punishment back in schools and for parents to get accustomed to beating their children every once in a while. Adults must re-take their rights to not be bothered by little pains in the ass who won't grow out of it until they start paying their own way and breaking the things they bought themselves.

    This shooter was a weirdo who hated rich kids and religion, but behind that is a sense of entitlement to something someone should have told him people earn--respect.

    By Anonymous Big Daddy, at 1:56 PM  

  • Excellent post. Too many people out there are trying to shuffle all the blame on other people and things; whereas the real responsibility lies with the person who, ironically, refuses to accept the responsibility for their own life and actions, and blames their failures on everyone else.

    By Blogger BobG, at 2:31 PM  

  • Check this out--the play written by the shooter is on the Smoking Gun

    Hindsight is 20/20, but obviously the maniac kid who wrote himself in as a question mark had some mommy and stepdaddy issues.

    By Anonymous Big Daddy, at 3:22 PM  

  • Nice post James.

    We come in all different sizes, shapes and colors. Some of us can grieve well without being taught. Others were never taught because, perhaps, no one taught them. We're all doing our best.

    By Blogger Dan, at 4:32 PM  

  • I agree with your comment about writing dark things...we all have dark thoughts at times but we are able to continue on in society without acting on them...in the case of the mentally ill the dark thoughts take over.

    By Blogger Robin, at 4:57 PM  

  • Well James, the crazies have come out tonight. As of 5pm today there was a bomb/gun threat at Old Dominion. One of the guys in my class got a text message that Dr. Runte (school president) sent out an email for everyone to leave class and that everything is canceled for the rest of the evening...

    What a world we live in.

    By Anonymous Michelle, at 7:44 PM  

  • I doubt that if the gunman survived we would be able to make any more sense out of this than we can now. The tape and letters sent to NBC certainly didn't illuminate anything for me except show how deeply disturbed the young man was. I just wish the people around him who noticed the problems did not have their hands tied legally and could have forced him to get help. Then there is the fact that he was allowed to buy guns and ammunition so easily. That of course is a rant for another day.

    By Blogger wordsonwater, at 9:01 PM  

  • Think your guy had at least part of a good idea, James.

    then there's the whole thing about it being so irresponsibly simple for anyone to get hold of guns & ammo.

    After all, if people get sore they can go sulk, or maybe hit things. If they can get guns, & get sore, they can go kill people.

    OK, so it's better to teach kids how to handle getting sore/angry. But making it harder to get guns might help in the meantime.

    By Anonymous bronchitikat, at 6:21 AM  

  • I don't think there can be an explanation. Nature and nurture could help prevent it, but sometimes people are plain evil.

    I will say this, with easy access to weapons, it facilitates the higher body counts.

    By Blogger Evil Spock, at 10:11 AM  

  • great points James as usual. Unfortunately this WILL happen again. As long as we plaster their names and pictures all over blogs,newspapers,and news sights we continue to make them famous. You can bet your arse that is to some degree what they want. As long as the phrase "most deadly shooting in History" is bandied about over and over there will be other nutjobs out there chasing that 'record' like Barry Bonds chasing Babe Ruths Home run record. I would be willing to bet there are 20 copycats out there now eyeing that record, taking in the amount of fame this piece of crap is being given and thinking "I can be famous too."

    BD

    By Blogger briliantdonkey, at 12:06 PM  

  • I don't think I can go with your friend's theory or your inclination that he may have a point.

    Disappointment in baseball, dating or any other adolescent activity or the loss of a loved one may lead to withdrawal, angst, any number of things. It does not lead to mass killing unless the root cause is other than disappointment or loss. Such as insanity or evil.

    By Blogger Dave, at 9:01 PM  

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