Monday, April 16

When my wants trump your life.

Well, how much more tragic can it get? You always think you've seen the worst you can possibly see -- we thought we saw it at Austin; we thought we saw it at San Ysidro; we thought we saw it at Killeen; given the ages of the people involved, we thought we saw it at Littleton. But there's always someone waiting around the corner to do worse, and he accomplished it today. I don't know where this fellow is now; all I can say is I'm glad it's God, and not me, who is saddled with the responsibility of being the sole arbiter of whether people go to Heaven or Hell, because if it was left up to me, I don't think this fellow would be very happy with where I put him.

So why did he do it? Why does anybody do anything like this? That may be a futile question to ask, since even if we knew the answer, we probably wouldn't be able to do anything about it. But it seems to me that any murder, any act of violence, comes down to one thing: selfishness.

Because nobody's yet been able to come up with a better explanation, let's assume the most popular early rumors are true and this guy was pissed off about being dumped by a girlfriend. If that's the case, what he basically did was assume that his pain was so important that it gave him the right to do whatever he wanted to whomever he wanted. He placed a higher priority on his pain than on anyone else's life, and so to relieve that pain, or at least make sure it was shared with others, he killed 32 people.

Why does a carjacker kill somebody? Because he wants a car, and the driver is merely an obstacle to him getting it; his want for the car is more important than that driver's life. Why does an abusive husband kill his wife? Because he wants to be in control, he wants to snap his wife in line, and that want to be in control is more important than his spouse's life. Why does a suicide bomber walk into a café with dynamite strapped to his waist? Because he's angry about some political issue or conflict that isn't going his way, and he thinks that getting his way is more important than the lives of dozens of people he's never even met long enough to be able to judge them (assuming it was his place to judge them at all).

It's selfishness. We get to the point of killing when we believe that what we want is so important it gives us the right to take it out on whomever we choose. Who the hell do we think we are?

I use the word "we" on purpose here, because I've seen a lot of selfishness today, long after the gunman did what he should have done from the start and put a bullet in his own head. I've seen people go from hearing about the news straight to exploiting it for their own purposes, without so much as a rolling stop in between to actually acknowledge the tragedy of anyone dying at all.

The most popular thread at Free Republic went all of seven replies before someone suggested the shooter was a Muslim; other threads were devoted solely to blaming gun-control laws or tut-tutting liberals for not arming themselves more heavily. Instapundit's first post at least made a terse reference to the magnitude of the tragedy before suggesting that Virginia Tech's gun restrictions were partially at fault; the same cannot be said of the perpetually execrable Michelle Malkin, who couldn't even be bothered to say "how awful" or "pray for the victims" before starting in with the NRA talking points. Not to be outdone, Democratic Underground -- in keeping with its official policy of never taking an opportunity to be the bigger man when there's an equal opportunity to be embarrassing -- started right in with declarations that this proved we need stricter gun laws, comparing it to the Iraq war, and coming up with yet more inane conspiracy theories.

There are bodies that haven't even cooled off yet and we're already exploiting this to inflame the gun-control debate again, to try and beat the other side over the head with accusations that they caused the deaths of 32 college kids and they don't care about people's lives. Some people can't even acknowledge the tragedy of the deaths themselves before starting right in with the political assault. And it's selfishness all over again -- not nearly as severe as the kind that drives people to kill, but selfishness all the same. My political point is more important than your life. I could take five seconds to mourn your death and pray for your family . . . but sorry, I've got more important things to do right now.

Look, I know I'm about as political a person as has ever walked on this earth. As I said in a comments thread on another blog this afternoon, I've even analyzed the political implications of my choice of breakfast cereals at some point in my life. But even I'm disgusted by this. Is this the face we want to present to the rest of society? Or to God? The killer placed his wants ahead of the lives of several dozen people; do we really want to emulate that in any way, shape, or form?

All I'm asking is that we spend 24 hours to actually pray, to ponder how we can keep from being part of this, to think about all the times we've committed acts of physical or even emotional violence out of selfishness -- and to make a pact with ourselves that next time we'll pay a little more attention to that voice of conscience inside our heads asking us what that violence is going to accomplish. Twenty-four hours to, for crying out loud, ponder the victims as people and not as potential tools for demonizing someone we don't agree with. There will be plenty of opportunity later on for arguing over the political issues, and plenty of people lining up to do it. Do you really need to join that queue?

I realize I'm not blameless here. I know that I've engaged in exactly the kind of behavior I'm decrying here in the past. But what if I just stopped doing that? What if we all did that? Just put someone else ahead of ourselves for a change? Do you think that maybe if this gunman had done that this morning, we wouldn't even be talking about this right now?


DC Trojan said...

Hear hear. 24 hours of decorum would do only good.

Josh said...

Let me tiptoe around this, because I don't want to politicize anything. It's just funny, though, because this post sounds exactly like the cornerstone of my libertarian conservative beliefs.

"We get to the point of killing when we believe that what we want is so important it gives us the right to take it out on whomever we choose."

As far as government, we get to the point of TAKING when we believe that what we want is so important it gives us the right to take it FROM whomever we choose.

"If that's the case, what he basically did was assume that his pain was so important that it gave him the right to do whatever he wanted to whomever he wanted. He placed a higher priority on his pain than on anyone else's life..."

Do you see what I'm getting at here? Our government - on both sides of the aisle, sadly - has taken it upon itself to assume that (fill in the blank's) pain was so important that they gave themselves the right to do whatever they wanted to whomever they wanted. The government has placed a higher priority on certain people's livelihoods over others.

You can say, "Well, come on. You're talking about money, I'm talking about lives." Well, in most cases, people spend their lives working for money, so it does equate to chunks of an individual's life when you take something from one person and give it to another.

Great post, by the way. I think I've maintained its spirit - apologies if you think otherwise.

Robert said...


CoolSchool said...

Doug you are so right. As I surfed around this morning I could not believe how quickly this tragedy is being used to score debate points. Great post.

TOM said...

I, too, had family members on the VT campus when the shootings occurred. As Doug said, the bodies weren't even cold before pundits began spinning the tragedy in the direction of their political bent- gun control, NRA, the actions of the school, and, I am sure in the future, something about immigration (since the shooter appears to have been Asian).

"For everything there is a season". This is a time for grieving, and prayer, and comforting the afflicted. There are 33 dead people, 33 families whose lives have been decimated, a community in Blacksburg and Virginia and in Tech alumni around the world who are in a state of shock and disbelief. There will be time for finger-pointing, recriminations, and political punditry, but now is not that time.

Kathy said...

Thank you, Doug. Your post should be required reading for politicians and the news media.

Jennifer said...

You're right on point. A San Antonio journalist published his anti-gun rant within an hour of the tragedy--before even the scantest of details were known.

What is also sick to me is that the lawyers are already hovering, waiting for the inevitable lawsuits, as though there is an exchange rate for the life of a human being.

I'm conflicted on the gun issue. I grew up in Montana and was raised by hunters. ON the other hand, I'm sick of this violence and clearly our politicians can't address the societal issues that push someone to pull the trigger. So, is gun control the answer? Or is it another band-aid to obscure some of the true illnesses in this country's mindset. I don't know. All I know is that I'm tired of reading week in and week out about shootings, plots, or bomb scares at schools K-12 and now at the University level.

Still, though, it's too soon to even begin to debate this. Victims' families haven't even been notified yet. . .

Cousin Pat from Georgia said...

Best thing I've read today.

SCummings said...

I rarely agree with your politics and really come here to read the football related stuff, but what you wrote on the VT tragedy is one of the best pieces I have ever read and really touched me. God bless those kids and their families. Doesnt matter what your politics are those politics can wait, today is about praying for the dead and taking stock of how lucky we all are not to have been in their situation because it can truly happen to anyone. Thanks for a wonderful reminder of that fact.

Kathy said...

I linked back to this post here and here (in the comments).

Anonymous said...

Truly brilliant words my friend. Thank you for sharing; I hope you don't mind, but I will share it with others.

Angela said...

Beautifully written, Doug. I agree 100%.