Let every American, every lover of liberty, every well wisher to his posterity, swear by the blood of the Revolution, never to violate in the least particular, the laws of the country; and never to tolerate their violation by others.

As the patriots of seventy-six did to the support of the Declaration of Independence, so to the support of the Constitution and Laws, let every American pledge his life, his property, and his sacred honor; let every man remember that to violate the law, is to trample on the blood of his father, and to tear the charter of his own, and his children's liberty.

Let reverence for the laws, be breathed by every American mother, to the lisping babe, that prattles on her lap; let it be taught in schools, in seminaries, and in colleges; let it be written in Primers, spelling books, and in Almanacs; let it be preached from the pulpit, proclaimed in legislative halls, and enforced in courts of justice. And, in short, let it become the political religion of the nation; and Let the old and the young, the rich and the poor, the grave and the gay, of all sexes and tongues, and colors and conditions, sacrifice unceasingly upon its altars.

While ever a state of feeling, such as this, shall universally, or even, very generally prevail throughout the nation, vain will be every effort, and fruitless every attempt, to subvert our national freedom.

- Abraham Lincoln, January 27, 1838
  Address Before the Young Men's Lyceum of Springfield, Illinois

Tuesday, April 17, 2007

"We are not the stuff of massacres"

A different small town, much like ours. Locals, students, faculty... different races, cultures, languages even, all mixed and jumbled together. Tolerance. Hokey birds everywhere.

Up until the Hokeys, this could easily be Bloomington. Quiet town, friendly people. Nothing much happens here, other than arguments about politics, and in our case, terrific music. Walking across campus you see students from all over the world. We have a mosque. We have Jewish temples. And of course, every flavor of Christian Church imaginable. We get along pretty well.

I can't imagine what the people of Blacksburg are going through today. I am trying to imagine sitting in a classroom at IU, and suddenly a gunman breaks in and starts shooting everyone. The problem is, I can imagine it... right up until the part about the gunman. Our campus isn't really much different than Virginia Tech. Quiet, normal days, students with backpacks and IPods, limestone buildings and trees. If it happened to Blacksburg, it could happen anywhere.

"But Blacksburg isn’t a place of massacres — Blacksburg is my home in southwest Virginia. It’s boring — that’s why I like it. We are Virginia Tech, the fighting gobblers, the ones who wear the funny turkey hats and plant tasteless turkey sculptures all over town. We are not the stuff of massacres."

Much is being made in the news of the many things that should be done to make sure this will never happen again. But that is impossible: of course it can happen again. If there is a will... a disgruntled or mentally ill student with a vendetta, it will happen again, and no amount of daily searches, metal detectors, and armed guards will stop it from happening again. At some point, we all have to accept that we are not safe from life. Things happen. People snap.

Perhaps we should look instead at our culture for the answers. The pressure we put on our kids to achieve, to 'make it' academically, as we pull the rug out from under them financially. Rather than investing in metal detectors, perhaps we should salvage the student loan program. Not radical enough? Sometimes the things that are most effective aren't radical at all. It just involves seeing people.

I'm sure the details will come out, and soon. The daytime ghouls at CNN will finally have their facts to trumpet over the airwaves, 24/7. Finally, a new drama. Things have been a bit dry post-Anna Nichole Smith (especially in light of CNN's seeming unwillingness to cover the scandals coming out of the White House.) Now they will be happily telling us all how to remake our collage campuses into little Nazi camps with 'safety everywhere' and freedom locked up, locked down... for the good of the students of course. Maybe you've noticed, our media isn't a big proponent of freedom. They disseminate terror. Fear makes for great headlines. And then they have a lot of fun dreaming up wonderful solutions for us: prisons of safety for the masses.

But I digress. This isn't about CNN, thank God. It's about people. It's about a quiet, quaint college town where 'nothing ever happens.'

By now, the parents and families of the dead have gotten word. I can't imagine their feelings of dread last night, when children attending Virginia Tech failed to call home. It must have been a lot like awaiting news from a child in Iraq; only these parents thought they were merely sending their child off for an education, not to serve as human targets.

I hear one entire class was massacred. I try not to imagine what that must have been like. Unfortunately, in a college town, its much too easy to picture the setting on a normal day, students sitting in a classroom with their notebooks open, perhaps a few laptops scattered here and there.

We are not the stuff of massacres either. I can imagine the classroom perfectly. But not the gunshots....

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