Sick in many senses

U/S results: everything looks normal so far! Still too early to see much, but like Julia suggested, we’re going with NBHHY. Nothing Bad Has Happened Yet. All of that stress for that. I woke up this morning nauseas, gagging, stuffy, achy, and overall feeling like a total disaster. I guess “woke up” really isn’t that accurate because I didn’t sleep very much.

In looking at history, I am not a declensionist, but neither am I a progressivist. I don’t believe that history has been a story of decline, progress, or least of all, cycling. I’m not sure what history has to tell us about actions we can take in the present, except that nothing is natural, nothing is inevitable, and nothing is predetermined (in the human experience, religiously/spiritually I believe that time is non-linear). It gives me peace to think that lots of ugly -ism’s, as well as celebrity worship and even “rational thought” are historical constructs, rather than something innate in human beings. All of this means that we can change things. That’s what I take from history in my personal life and that’s the message I try to get across to students. That we don’t have to accept anything at all as immutable.

Days after the shootings at Virginia Tech, some conservative pundits are blaming the victims and liberal Americans for the tragedy. Neal Boortz claims the shootings were symptomatic of the ” wussification of America.” Mark Steyn blames it on a “culture of passivity” and the lack of real men in the United States. John Derbyshire blames it on “the ludicrous campus ban on licensed conceals” and lack of a “spirit of self-defense” among the victims. [Check out Media Matters and Daily Kos for more practiced discussion, if you’re interested.] Other writers and thinkers can and will, I’m sure, do a better job of attacking each of those points on their merits. What I’m concerned with, as an intellectual historian, is the mode of thought that allows them to think and speak this way. I’m not interested in the derivation of it because, while I think it can probably be traced somewhat in the sources, we’re too close to it, too invested in it, to analyze it as well as I’d like.

I don’t understand the growth of the vehement, and in my opinion, mean in multiple senses, conservative commentary in this country. It’s something that to me, came out of nowhere while I was living abroad, and has gotten worse while I’ve been stuck in the 18th and 19th centuries for the past five years of graduate school. It’s not necessarily “new,” certainly I’ve read personal attacks in the press of the past two centuries. Rape victims, orphans, the impoverished, slaves, alcoholics, I’ve seen them all blamed for their suffering in the pages of archival material.

But college students and faculty, male and female? At a privileged private school of all places? Who have been shot, murdered, and terrorized by an armed gun man? That seems like an extension, an expansion of blaming the victim I would not have expected.

It seems like an abdication of personal responsibility, of social responsibility, being construed, incorrectly, as an examination of that same problem. If we can just argue that we’ve produced a nation of wusses, emasculated men, and children, then certainly gun violence, domestic violence, violence in media, and the poor treatment of mental illness in this country are not worth discussing.

There were acts of everyday heroism in Blacksburg, VA. I don’t want to discuss how the faculty and students responded when faced by an armed and homicidal young man. I don’t understand how anyone could look at that situation and suggest that it would have been better had everyone else been armed as well. Police officers and swat specialists are trained extensively in handling armed criminals. I don’t want to live in a society where everyone requires that sort of expertise to go about their everyday lives. I don’t think it is inevitable that seriously disturbed individuals will perform mass murder. I want non-condemnatory dialog about how this young man got to this point, about why, despite their best efforts, none of his professors were able to get him help. And I don’t want us to have any tolerance for the sort of hate-mongering, self-righteous speech we have witnessed both in the aftermath of this catastrophe and other lesser crises we’ve seen in the past two weeks.


9 responses to “Sick in many senses

  1. Well, of course, I missed the last two posts…so Congratulations!
    And just to clarify, they have to have a Doctor looking at the screen while you are in the room, they may be off-site, looking at a remote monitor, but they have to be watching to ask for different angles/views, by phone. So yes, the jerk could tell them to let you see the screen.

    If something is really wrong, they generally don’t let you leave. Rarely, they will but just to say to go to see your Doc directly.

    I have a feeling they weren’t speaking to you because they were concerned about the issue of dates vs. heartbeat. But of course, it is a touch early, which they didn’t know, so NBHHY then!

    I agree with you about the media treatment of this violence BTW. Thanks for saying this!

  2. Yeay! NBHHY!

    And you notice that the people doing the condemning are the very same 101st fighting keyboardists who wouldn’t be caught dead enlisting in the army they so support to go fight in the war they can’t get enough of, right?

    I think the reason for their screeching is fairly simple and sad– they are afraid. If the victims did nothing wrong, than the same thing can happen to them. So surely there has to be a reason it would never happen to them. Oh, yes– because they, you see, are real men (TM).

    It is the same reason, I think, that a lot of people find a way to distance themselves from people like us– there has to be something inherently different about us that put us in the category of people whose kids die. Otherwise, they would have to consider that they too might be in such category.

  3. Thank you for this post. It seems that whenever something this devastatingly nonsensical happens, every camp tries to twist it to further its own agenda.

    And I’m so glad to hear that NBHHY šŸ™‚

  4. Julia: Exactly. 3 points I should have added. Especially your last one, that the sentiment is similar to the reasons we’re ostracized.

    Thanks Emily and Aurelia. I knew the tech was lying to me but I didn’t realize just how badly!

  5. Ditto on NBHHY.

  6. Very glad for the NBHHY!

    And yes to all your thoughts about the VA Tech tragedy. I don’t even get where alot of this commentary is coming from. But then again, i try not to listen to it too much….

  7. You’ve heard me say this before in conversation and disagreed with me, but I’ll say it again: I don’t think that rationality, or “rational thought” (I’m not sure why you use the scare quotes) are historical constructs. In fact, I don’t see how they can be; what it is to be a rational agent (in the sense of, for example, instrumental reasoning) is simply a conceptual point. It is true that, at some historical moment, the idea of instrumental reasoning was developed; but that no more makes it a human construct than, say, mathematical truths, which obtain independently of any historical facts.

    It is also true that the emphasis on rational agency in moral thought is very recent (identified most commonly with Kant), but that again is a point about the discovery of a specific concept; it doesn’t follow that rational agency itself is a human construct.

    I wonder, too, about the coherence of the claim you make as a historian: you say that nothing is immutable. How strongly do you mean this? Does this apply *even to the claim itself*? For that would mean that even the claim “nothing is immutable” is in fact not a constant truth, not a dogma of history.

    I’m sure that I’m just misreading you here; I’m no historian, and I’d trust your judgment over mine in these matters. I just find it fun to think about these things.

    More importantly, congratulations on things going well so far!

  8. Sara- I’m just happy to hear that so far… so good. One day at a time, right?

  9. First, congratulations on your pregnancy and that NBHHY:) Also, as I have not commented here before, I am so sorry for your losses and hope this pregnancy is as easy and uneventful as it can be.

    This was a really good post about the shootings – thanks.

    These media mouths who spew such poison into the public realm do have forgotten that real people were/are involved in this ‘story’.

    Those who speak garbage tend to speak loudest don’t they? As if that makes them more right or something.

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