What Words Do We Use? In Memoriam

The ivory towers of academia will never be the same after the massacre on Tuesday morning at Virginia Teach in Blacksburg, VA. The attempts to come to grips with the killing of 32 people, almost all of them students. by a fellow student has left us all searching for the words that might bring some sense of meaning to what is most definitely a senseless act of violence. Who was this shooter? Not just his name. but some understanding of who he was as a person that might give us some clues as to why he did what he did. What was he trying to prove by killing his classmates and professors? What does this say about us as a nation? Are we raising our children to believe and/or accept this kind of violence is an acceptable way to express grievances against the system?

All these questions are searching for answers. But I doubt we will find many answers. We will be lucky to find the words to express our grief and outrage at the violence. The fact that it occurred at an institution of higher learning only makes the violence that much more inexplicable. Colleges and universities, since their founding in the Middle Ages, have always been perceived as sanctuaries from the real world. as places of peace and serenity. They have been almost as sacred a place as a church. No longer.

The aftermath of the massacre at Virginia Tech will see major changes in the security measnure and procedures taken by colleges and universities in this country and abroad as well, I suspect. A prmary concern will be how to notify students who are spread out over a sprawling campus of threats to their well-being. And parents will change the way they look at prospective colleges for their kids. Security will now be added to all the other criteria we parents must evaluate before picking an institution of higher learning for our children. If they cannot be safe on a college campus, is there any place any more where out kids can be safe?

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\r\nMy heart goes out to the families of the victims. As a father and an academic of sorts, I can only add my own tears to yours. There are no words that would be appropriate.

And my heart really goes out to the parents of the student who did the shooting. They are immigrants who, like most immigrants, came to this country, a nation of immigrants, looking for a better life for their children. More than likely, they had to work hard to send their son to college. And then this happens. I wonder what words they are using to try and make sense of this.

As an immigrant myself, I fear the backlash that this incident will have on attitudes and official policies regarding immigration in this country, already a very heated issue. It is very likely that there will be negative reprisals against immigrants because of this. The politicians who favor an even more restrictive immigration policy than what we already have are loading this bullet into their arsenal.

But, the real blame for this incident lies in our national policies about mental illness and privacy. The young man was diagnosed as dangerous to himself and/or others two years ago and it was recommended that he get outpatient psychiatric treatment. From what I have been able to glean from the news stories, it appears he never got that treatment. Why not?

Were his parents notified of his problem or were they kept out of the loop to protect his privacy? Why did the university not follow up om this recommendation? Where they kept out of the loop as well for privacy reasons? Where was the state department of mental health or social services not involved in seeing to it that this young man received the treatment he needed?

The system let him down and the fact that he is an immigrant is irrelevant. The issue that the politicians need to debate is not whether we need a more restrictive immigration policy, but how do we onsure that people with mental illnes get treated without sacrificing our privacy rights.

I feel that a complete rethinking of privacy is necessary. We need to undo the muddled policies currently in place that have allowed privacy violations in areas that need to be protected while overly restricting privacy in areas where a less restrictive privacy policy would actually protect us all better, such as in the case of this young man. Had fewer hands been tied by the privacy protection policies, this young man may have received the necessary medical treatment and would not have committed this horrific act of violence. Thirty-three lives would have been saved and we would not be looking for words to explain this unexplainable event.

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