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.