Tuesday, April 17, 2007

On the Murders at Virginia Tech

If I reference the Rude Pundit any more often than I currently do, I risk becoming a mere extension of the man. And that is not what I wanted this blog to be about. No, I wanted this to be an extension of my own being, my own search for Truth in a world that lies to us daily.

But I have to give credit where it's due, and the Rude One's eloquent summation of the effect of yesterday's shooting spree at Virginia Tech University on our deadened society was far better than anything I could have said about the matter. But I'll try anyway, because this subject touches me on a personal level.

If more people in this country cared enough about the problems facing it to actually get off their butts and do something, if we could be bothered to look up from our daily grind and pay attention to what is going on around us, if we become so personally outraged that such violence can happen in our communities with all the inevitability that comes from societal apathy, and actually do something to address the ills driving more and more of us to just snap...well then, we wouldn't have gotten where we are, a country that doesn't even blink anymore or pay attention when violence happens in our neighborhoods.

Last month, my great uncle, Joe Krasucki, was viciously assaulted in his own backyard by at least two thugs (maybe more). Uncle Joe was getting a late night snack, when he heard someone trying to break in. Going outside to investigate, his attackers ambushed him and got him on the ground, kicking him repeatedly. When he begged them to stop, they stepped up their attack. This they did even after Uncle Joe had surrendered his wallet and car keys. The thugs, whom Uncle Joe later described to police as teenage boys wearing dark clothing, drove his car about a block before abandoning it--the engine still running.

Beaten and crawling on the ground, he made his way inside the house, and managed somehow to call an ambulance. A few days after the assault, Uncle Joe suffered a heart attack and slipped into unconsciousness. He never recovered; he died March 26th.

No one came to Uncle Joe's rescue, even though the vicious assault that ultimately led to his death had to have been loud enough to wake the entire street. To be fair, the houses sandwiching Uncle Joe's home on Cleveland's Hosmer Avenue in the Slavic Village neighborhood were vacant. But surely, enough noise was made to alert someone, who could have called the police. But people were either afraid for their own lives, or simply didn't bother to get worked up over what has become a common occurrence in today's society.

Oh, sure, after the crime there were some folks who cared, mainly Uncle Joe's friends and family. And of those who were not kin or comrade, the few who bothered enough to say something were split between newspaper writers and political stumpers seeking to use Uncle Joe's death to promote their own political agendas. Not surprisingly, the town's sole newspaper chose to print the letters of these stumpers in pushing its own agenda (the Plain Dealer has had it in for Dennis Kucinich since the Muny Light debacle, which ultimately proved Cleveland's former mayor right, and one of the letters printed in the Easter Sunday forum pages took a swipe at Kucinich).

About the only people who care anymore about rising violence in this country are the victims of it, and the politicians who make their living exploiting it for their own ends. Cho Seung-Hui, a South Korean immigrant, has been identified as the gunman who murdered more than thirty people before taking his own life. He will be reduced to a caricature, downplayed and used as an easy scapegoat for a public that does not want to address the societal ills that cause people to snap and kill. Politicians will go on about how we're not supposed to blame guns for the shooting, and that our national obsession with firearms isn't the problem. Others will use the shooting spree as another reason why gun control is the best way to reduce gun violence (again, I must give credit to the Rude Pundit for pointing out how "no one ever heard of a drive-by stabbing").

But in the brief, public debate about guns and their effect on society, let's remember two things: First and foremost, we are talking about people's lives, lives that mattered and that don't deserve to be reduced to the level of canned talking points for politicians, talking heads, and disembodied radio voices; and secondly, that if we are to have any discussion it must be about what causes violence and what we can and should be doing to solve the problem.

But no, it's just easier to place blame on an easy scapegoat, like Bill O'Lielly did when he took a drunk driving accident that took the lives of two young women and used it to push his stump-rantings-and-ravings on the subject of illegal immigration. Yes, that will probably be the newest scapegoat for the senseless slaughter at Virginia Tech; after the military fatigues and militiamen, after the trenchcoats and the turbans, now it'll be immigrants. Anything to let us avoid looking in the mirror and asking ourselves if the real cause isn't really ourselves and our apathetic, greedy, self-absorbed and arrogant society.

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