Ye shall know the Truth, and the Truth shall make you free

April 19, 2007 at 11:10 pm (places, stuff)

This is the inscription on the clock tower at the University of Texas at Austin, darkened in mourning.

The Clock Tower at Austin, darkened.

I haven’t blogged in a while, though goodness knows there was plenty to blog about—Imus was good for at least a couple of entries—but we’ll come back to that later. Today I’m blogging about something wholly disturbing, the Virginia Tech shootings. The event in itself is heartbreaking, and has no logic—it was a sad act by a sad person. But what is just as disturbing is the treatment of the event by the media. A sick person quickly becomes a monster as we rip his life apart, and that makes it easier for us to grasp. The event becomes mythology—good versus evil; an event to be learned from and made better by for having survived it.

Our fascination with tragedy is remarkable—the tragic occurrences are the ones that shape us; I couldn’t tell you a great deal about the history of the University of Texas at Austin, but I know who Charles Whitman was. I was there when they decided to re-open the clock tower to visitors, (for the second time—a string of suicides in the 1970s closed the observation deck for a second time in 1974) and I heard stories about how he’d hit people almost a mile away, how bore marks in the marble of buildings were actually ricochets, and how he had scratched marks in the limestone of the clock tower to keep count of his kills. He was a regular person, capable, in a twisted way, of something remarkable. We still remember that day, as we remember 9/11 or Columbine. We examine killers with the same fervor as the great minds of our time. They fascinate us—just as we perhaps can’t see ourselves achieving greatness, we can’t see ourselves causing such suffering.

But I would ask that in this situation, as in others, we try to remember that there are never only two sides. We should have pity and not hatred, and we should try to understand why—and understand that there is no simple answer.



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