Saturday, July 28, 2007

Virginia Tech Shootings

We battle fear when we watch the news.

This is how I talk about the situation, some Asian guy was really depressed and shot a bunch of people and he did it easily, no one is afraid of Asians because this happened, there hasn't been a rash of hate crimes, Asian people are not being put into secret prisons the day after this shooting occurred.

It is a time for reflection when we are surprised by our own nonchalant acceptance that the shooter was Asian. I consider this, the eye of the storm of school shootings.

The media tried but didn't know how to sell the story to us. Was he a psycho? Should we be afraid of people who might "snap"? Was it because of "rich kids"? Was he externalizing his hatred through video games and other violence? In the end we were left with a very depressed person who was completely and utterly intense and we were confused, then sad and then we tried to be scared, but something didn't click over, we didn't become immediately defensive, we saw something about him that meant that either it may never happen again or we think that it can be prevented.

I like to believe the latter, that we have a positive outlook on a tragic situation, because we have a lack of a negative response. Most times in life we are vocal about things that are negative, if something positive can come out of this, it's not going to parade itself around and blast it like trumpets, we will find ourselves in a positive situation that we setup for ourselves and wouldn't know we even changed anything.

So that's been a long rant with not much explanation...
Ok, here's my point. In a mass-killing with more disbelief than fear we have the opportunity to unravel the mystery behind how to prevent extreme situations much like this one. This is possible because fear muddles up rational thought towards emotional ones and variables multiply causing a polarization of precautionary efforts.

The teachers had all the resources to find out if he needed help and the university had all the resources to help him, or could show him where he could find more help. So what went wrong? Our system is built to handle even the most unpredictable solutions. I believe that that there is too much of a stigma built around expressing yourself, counseling and even reporting students that may be at risk. In other words we almost fear help as if it shows weakness and/or gives false promises of change.

I believe that talking to someone should be a part of education, if everyone in middle school had to talk to a counselor about what they should be doing for a career, then everyone should be given an hour out of every week of school to do one of two things, either create small groups of students to talk about anything and say anything without repercussion in order to vent, or talk personally with someone (someone who is paid just like we pay someone professionally) to just listen and help people ask questions with the highest privacy. I was elated when I first heard that none of heard that none of his writings would be released to the media, we were hungry to know how different he was and how violent his past, this would comfort us at least, but his teachers wouldn't give the news this kind of ammo. I think privacy can help establish trust, and when we trust that we can tell someone something and we think they will listen, talking/writing becomes our outlet.

The whole part of bringing in professional help is especially difficult, how would we pay a professional psychiatrist for every school in the nation? How would they get to every student? I don't want to go on a big rant about how if we didn't use money to pay for a war, we would have more money for education, not only is that obvious, but who knows if we would have actually put all that money to good use had we had a surplus. Prevention is the most cost effective way to approach this very expensive theory, think about all the people who may not have needed to go to a shrink later on in life because they knew what questions to ask themselves, knowing to ask the biggest questions, where am I coming from, where am I going, why? Imagine frustrated students who had an outlet, what if in this mandatory group someone who picked on students actually had to face the victim, and the victim felt empowered to be able to have a conversation with the bully about what it felt like and what it means. As opposed to what we have today, a reactive approach based on negative reinforcement to stop bullying.

(note: just in case it's not obvious to some, not everyone has someone to talk to, I think that fact needs to end, just like if we approved universal health care for children, there should be universal MENTAL health care.)

This personality of the shooter in the Virginia Tech Shootings is so unusual because people were all around him, there were so many opportunities to talk with him, to get to know him, to tell him that someone was there for him. I can't wait for a day in our society where we get past passive aggressive behaviors towards what frustrates us and not being in fear to tell someone exactly how we feel, especially to someone who we may feel has exerted power onto our being, but having conversation be such an essential part of life that we get past the awkwardness and the discomfort of talking to other people this way and DEAL with issues.

I don't feel like posting a huge rant about what could happen if we didn't do something along these lines, because that post is about 5x's as big and it's mainly negative and could give someone a sense that there is no hope. But there is hope, there has always been hope, we need to recognize the importance of education, the importance of talking, the importance of connection, the importance of love, the importance of expression, the importance of art, the importance of you, the importance of me, we need to be terribly optimistic that people can get help and that we can end school shootings, victims killing victims.

So here's where the hope lies, there was a shooting where the shooter wasn't pegged right away about why we should be afraid. And we shouldn't be afraid, to be afraid to have conversations about this issue, about depression, about what we can do to make it better, to make others not afraid to speak out about their own depression and their own thoughts. It's rare that we have an opportunity that is not defeated by fear from the get go and we need to take it to re ***** our education system.

(I put ***** there because I don't know what word to use to describe how everyone feels our education system should be handled, if it is blank, then it is up to you, the reader to find out your way to help schools and our youth.) revitalize-redo-revamp-reconstruct etc.

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