Wednesday, April 18, 2007



Just An Ordinary Day In Iraq—In Virginia

First, there’s shock, depression, identification with the victims and outrage that such a thing could happen here. Then comes the inevitable search for meaning, and the debate over gun laws, video games, values and more. All accomplished with a stunning lack of perspective.
For one thing, the Virginia Tech incident was not even remotely that nation’s worst mass shooting, as some media are claiming…unless, of course, you don’t consider Native Americans or African Americans to be real people. Try to recall the Indian massacres at Marias, Sand Creek, Wounded Knee and now-forgotten locales. And the death toll of black people in Tulsa in 1921 probably topped 300. Of course, soldiers are human, too, so the 3,600 or so dead at the Battle of Antietam also top the 33 dead yesterday in Blacksburg.
But let’s widen our view to the present and include the American-led war in Iraq, and then narrow it to Baghdad alone. In July 2006, 1,417 bodies wound up at the city morgue, many shot to death at point-blank range, other blown apart in a less personal manner. All dead. That’s 46 people a day murdered, day after day after day. All had families; all had immortal souls, if you believe that; all were human. While the death rate in Baghdad seems to have slacked somewhat, as Iraq Body Count blogger Lily Hamourtziadou’s weekly report concludes, “Violence in Iraq is rising at an ‘unbelievably rapid pace’, according to the Pentagon’s latest assessment of the security situation.”
None of this is supposed to belittle the horror of Blacksburg in the least. It can’t. Murder is murder, whether conducted by a deranged gunman or under the protective cover of war. Try, just try to identify with the victims at Virginia Tech and extend that to America’s minorities, America’s battered and murdered women, and to Iraq.
What is happening in Iraq is wrong. And the first response of a rational person who finds him or herself doing wrong is to stop doing it. We can’t stop everyone in the world from murdering their neighbors, but we can stop doing it ourselves.
And as for the historical murders of blacks and Native Americans, the effect of those acts is still very much with us. The victims and even the perpetrators live with collective memories of unatoned-for massacres, and for all the other thousands of deaths whose toll does not reach into double or triple digits but are not wholly forgotten. Those killings come back to haunt us in a thousand different ways, ranging from the persistence of white supremacy to the shame of America’s Indian reservations.
Blacksburg was not ordinary, but at the same time it was. While we’re searching our national souls over this, let’s search a little deeper and more broadly. Not to add to our guilt, which doesn’t much help, but to make us better people.--Alec Dubro Tuesday, April 17, 2007 11:17 AM


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