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The death of innocents-- from Iraq to Blacksburg

June 17, 2007 12:35 am

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Amid tragic losses in Iraq and catastrophe at Virginia Tech, is it time for a new spirit of cooperation in America? 0617VPamrhine1.jpg.jpg

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TOO MANY peo- ple are at their wit's end, and have decided to self-medicate by taking out their problems on the innocent and unsuspecting. That applies to everyone, from the most private individual to the very public presidential administration.

How's that for seat-of-the-pants psychoanalysis?

Consider the classic angry loners who turn places of learning into chambers of death, whether it's a large Virginia university, a small Amish schoolhouse, or a high school in Colorado. Normal people can't comprehend such abnormal, anti-social behavior.

Do those who walk into their former workplaces and open fire belong in yet another category? What about the desperate soul who kills his or her family and then may or may not take his or her own life?

How do you classify those who use their cars as weapons, whether it's a spur-of-the-moment road-rage reaction to a perceived slight, or an allegedly drug-fueled journey of destruction through crowded streets?

Why do those who commit mass murder, such as by bombing a federal office building in Oklahoma City or a Middle Eastern marketplace, or by flying airplanes into the World Trade Center and the Pentagon, think that such acts would further their causes?

In reality, these people are heroes only to fellow irrationals, and pariahs to everyone else.

While every incident or episode is unique, the culprit apparently intends to gain satisfaction by inflicting pain and suffering on his victims and their survivors. Some of the killers keep themselves safely out of harm's way as the deed is done, while others willingly give their lives in the process or take themselves out shortly thereafter.

These villains use very different yardsticks to determine how long they'll stick around to "enjoy" their deeds.

I generally reject the notion that one era or generation is "worse" than the one before it; each endures confounding experiences that suggest the world is going to hell in a handbasket. Blame is always assigned to such things as godlessness, selfishness, hopelessness, the culture's or media's lack of conscience, poor parenting, the abundance or lack of guns, or the pressures and haste of modern life.

But most would agree that the start of this century has had more than its share of record-setting death and destruction.

It's not far-fetched to consider that America's aggressive military foray into Iraq fits the pattern. We had no more reason, as it turns out, to attack Iraq than we did any other murderous, dictatorial regime. Had Iraq actually been linked to Sept. 11, or hoarded weapons of mass destruction, a counterattack would be viewed as fair retribution. Instead, we attacked another nation out of anger, a need to pay back a perceived slight in a misguided desire for satisfaction.

How many innocent lives have been shattered--on all sides? This war is little more than road rage on a global and much more costly scale.

Missing in every case is basic human integrity. When the history of the Iraq War is written, deception and shortsightedness by the Bush administration will form its foundation. Caught up in a desire to avenge Sept. 11, too many Americans, some of the nation's best and brightest, were snookered into offering support.

It is a misconceived "truth" as well that convinces mass killers to find satisfaction in destroying the lives of others.

To counter the violence, our thinking needs to be clear and logical. To have prevented Seung-Hui Cho's actions at Virginia Tech, we needed to have denied him easy access to guns. It is absurd that his history of mental illness would not be reported in a background check for a gun purchase. We need to keep plugging the loopholes that allow guns to fall into the wrong hands--preferably before rather than after the fact.

Some other "truths": We need to acknowledge that expecting to halt gun violence via blanket gun controls is a pipe dream. And we'll remain stalemated if such controls impinge on the rights of lawful gun owners.

For their part, it's up to gun-rights advocates to prove their distaste for gun violence by agreeing to tougher registration standards that will separate the good guys from the bad. Stupidly contrived "gun giveaways" are counterproductive, as is Virginia's reputation as a national gun supplier.

For progress to be made, these must be shared goals. Achieving any level of societal sanity begins with common sense, vision, and compromise. Let's start working together on that as soon as possible.

Richard Amrhine is a writer and editor with The Free Lance-Star.



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