Monday, April 23, 2007

A week of thought and reflection...

Well, it has been a week since the tragic events on the Virginia Tech campus. I won't rehash the events, post the rants from a clearly sick individual, nor post links detailing the events of that day. I will just post some of my thoughts about all that has taken place and some of what has been said.

My first reaction was utter shock. But as we learned more about the smoldering fuse that this young man was, it clearly points out just the many flaws that there are in the mental health system in this country.

News coverage: I think that too much emphasis has been placed on finding flaws and fault in the system, and not enough focus on how can the system be improved. Repeatedly the focus on was 'what went wrong' in a sensationalistic way, often focusing on how he was able to buy a gun. Not enough prime time talk was about the state of mental health services and support (or lack thereof) that we have in the US. Focus on making improvements, and there is oh so much room for improvement.

2nd Amendment:
there are many on the far left that want to use this incident to help their case for banning handguns. Sorry, but no, that won't solve the many issues we have. Clearly there needs to be some tweaking of the mental health-background check. However, this probably wouldn't have prevented this tragedy. This was a well planned attack. He worked on this for months, and had plenty of time to seek out a gun by other means.

On the flip side, there have been some pro-gun folks that want to to use this tragedy as support for the right for anyone to be able to carry a gun anywhere. Please, there is no way that we want students carrying guns around campus. Remember college??? A lot of god memories, lots of good friends, and a whole shyte-load of drinking. Weren't there enough problems with drunk college students without throwing guns into the mix. Besides, most of these NRA/pro-gun types always forget or ignore the 1st part of the 2nd amendment: A well-regulated militia... (hello, well regulated doesn't mean anyone anywhere can own and carry any kind of gun he/she chooses). A few more regulations may not have prevented this incident, but they do help prevent those crimes of passion where someone who is distraught, angry or upset tries and gets a gun. More on guns et al at a later date.

I saw several reports early on where Korean students and students of Korean descent were worried about backlash because the perp was Korean. The media clearly amped up these fears as the repeatedly labeled this young man as 'the Korean gunman'. Thank God there have not been any incidents/harassment of Koreans (at least I have not seen or read about any), though you can't blame them for being concerned. Too often there have been such racist attacks after such incidents. Maybe this nation IS maturing... yeah, I doubt it too, but I can dream.. Maybe we did learn a lesson from the Amish as they forgave the man who gunned down their children. btw: the Amish reaction and actions are one of the few incidents where you can find the answer to the question: "What would Jesus do?"

Academic Freedom (or lack thereof). On Friday a professor was fired for acting out a shooting scenario in his classroom. He was asked by his university to engage students in regards to the events of 4/16. He did, but in an unconventional way. It may have been upsetting to some, maybe even a touch tasteless. Nonetheless, he did what was asked. I find the point that he may have been trying to make (that some of the deaths may have been prevented if a student was armed) a bit scary (see my rant above about arming students). BUT, just because the actions and point the professor was trying to make were controversial and/or upsetting to some or even most does not justify the firing. Academic freedom is already under assault in this nation, and any actions to hasten the demise of a critical part of our democracy must be opposed.

The stigma of mental illness. To me, this problem is at the root of the incident. The young man clearly had some serious mental health issues,m and not just recently. As more is reported about the history of this kid who called himself ?, a broad deep picture of a very troubled young man is revealed. Some news organizations covered his relatives in Korea and how they noticed from an early age how different this kid was. One news report talked about how mental illness was a stigma in the Korean community and that may have caused the parents to not seek treatment. This is bullshit. The stigma is cross-cultural, cross-ethnic, cross-SES. Society treats mental illness as something to be ashamed of and hidden. The is never enough $$ for the treatment of mental illness, often leaving those will mental illness on the fringes of society.

The kid had serious mental issues from early childhood, but they manifested themselves in ways that didn't immediately draw the attention of those around him, or maybe it did and they didn't know or have the resources to deal with it. I don't blame them. There have been a couple of issues in my own family of issues with mental health. Getting the right help is challenging when you know something is wrong and you have the resources. Education about mental health and taking away the stigma of being treated for mental illness will go a long way to preventing an incident like this from re-occurring.


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