20 April, 2007

murder most foul

i haven't written about the VT murders, because what else is there to say? personally, i don't understand why someone would do such a thing. perhaps there is no way to understand it. yet that doesn't stop people from trying. why? because, for some reason, we think if we understand why, then another, similar, future act can be prevented. unfortunately, even if we understand the motivation and reason behind such action, we can never prevent something like it from ever happening again. the price of being a free people is the risk of some taking advantage of that freedom.

after the fact, our human desire to discern patterns kicks into high gear. with hindsight, it becomes inevitable. here was a man who was highly anti-social. he'd stalked. he wrote twisted plays and stories. he'd been in counselling for a spell. apparently, he was a mean bastard. it all seems so obvious, doesn't it? why didn't anyone act prior to this?

the answer to that is simple: there are thousands, perhaps millions of people just like this who don't go on killing sprees. we cannot suspect or prosecute people for being extremely quiet. we cannot do so even for writing horrible things. i could write twisted stories if i wished. doesn't mean i'm describing what i want to, or plan to do (incidently, his plays do not include anyone being shot. killed, yes; shot, no). simply put, there is no sure way to predict whether someone is going to become a murderer, mass or otherwise.

what we forget when these things happen is just how rare they are. look at the numbers. if we consider something like a school shooting, we can assume we are dealing with an age range of about 15-24, likely male. using the 2005 census data, this is about 14% of the male population: approximately 19,778,495 people. if we had a mass murder from this demographic every day of the year, it would still only be about 0.002% of the demographic that were murdering bastards. that's 0.002% of a 14% slice of the total US population. applied to the total population, an exceedingly small percentage of people decide to go on shooting sprees.

perspective does not diminish tragedy. but, in deciding how to respond to tragedy like this, we need to keep our perspective. everyday, nearly 20 million males between the ages of 15-24 decide not to walk into their classroom and start shooting people. law is a system, and systems need to be designed for normal functioning, not for abberations. an act such as the murders at VT is an abberration. the horror we feel in response to it shows just how rare a thing it is. indeed, what is surprising is that this sort of atrocity doesn't happen more often. we need to remember that. the proper response to acts such as this is grief, horror, shock. the proper response is personal, not legal.


Archaeopteryx said...

Exactly right. The Virginia Tech murders have nothing to do with anything.

Keifus said...

Something about cures worse than the disease here. A lot of talk that VaTech should have clamped down after the first shooting, on the other side of campus. Smart in hindsight, but completely unreasonable in context. How likely was it that what happened would follow? If you google the timeline of events, it's all about the police trying to cover their asses.

I am able to rationalize a lot of risk by looking at things according to the I-95 test (these days I-495, but you know what I mean). Though I don't think about it much, commuting is a lot more likely to kill me than most things. How's the liklihood of a highway accident compare to the threat of getting hurt by a disgruntled employee or a terrorist? It's not even remotely close.


LentenStuffe said...

There's really no way to safeguard against the spontaneous outbursts of insane pariahs like him without doing irreperable harm to the rights of millions of others, who may share many of his alarming but non-homicidal characteristics.

How many hormonal kids, who find themselves rejected or unloved, fit that profile?

I agree with K about the cure being worse. Often the hysteria this kind of thing generates leads to totally draconian measures, which are worse in the long-term.

The governor of California is a celebrity because he acted out a similar homicidal madness on the big screen. Cho looked and sounded like a mind-controlled zombie in that home-video, a veritable cyborg!