Monday, April 16, 2007
A Prediction
Pardon me while I channel my inner Nostradamus for a moment.

I predict that, within the next few hours, emergency rooms around the country are going to be crammed full of people needing treatment for their poor, tired, overworked fingers. The fingers that they're going to begin pointing, at anyone and everyone, in a desperate scramble to assign blame.

Because, at last check, there are at least 30 people dead on the Virginia Tech campus. Security measures, parenting techniques, access to guns, mental health treatment, privacy policies, equal opportunity policies, abortion rights, separation of church and state, the need for all young girls to get a Gardasil shot before entering sixth grade, the rights of noncustodial parents, the relative merits of Steve versus Joe on Blue's Clues, and any number of other debates, relevant and wildly not so, are going to be dredged up, waved around, and thrown onto this massacre until the speaker feels justified in his or her anger. Fault will be found, blame will be assigned, and as long as the finger-pointer is able to absolve himself or herself of all possible responsibility, then relief will follow.

By all means, if it makes you feel better, limber up that pointer finger and tell me that it's all because of the change in SAT scoring policies. Assert your belief that this never would have happened if school lunches included 2% instead of whole milk. Denounce the No Child Left Behind Act, or insist that it should have been enacted even sooner. If it makes you sleep better at night, identify a cause and decry it.

But maybe, just maybe, there's no one reason why this happened. Maybe it's no one person's fault. Maybe mental illness, and anger, and hurt feelings, and access to weapons, and inadequate security response, and a million other factors all worked together to contribute to a completely avoidable and yet completely inevitable tragedy. And we all have to continue living in a society where things like this are possible, even when it's not fair and horrifying.

Can it ever get better? Sure. Will it? Sure. But not as a result of finger-pointing.

And meanwhile, my heart aches for everyone - everyone - involved. The victims, their families, the injured, the barely-misseds, all of the parents of all of the students who were away at college, the law enforcement officials, the school administration, and so on, and so on. Even, yes, the shooter; happy people don't open fire on their classmates. Everyone who survived this is going to spend a few moments, maybe years, second-guessing their own actions and wishing a happier ending, and everyone who died has lost the chance to make it better at any given second along the way.