April 18th, 2007

andromeda

reaction

I held off on writing anything about the Va Tech incident, because I sort of maintain this journal to be part of blog world and in blog world people will probably be annoyed by one more person's thoughts on something that everybody's writing about. But other times, when I remember that I maintain it for myself too, I think I should write about everything. So here goes.

First, I stand by my assertion that I am still way more scared of off-their-meds lunatics than of any other lunatic group... the religious crazies, political crazies, robbers, nationalists, etc. Since 9-11 a lot more people have started to fear religious crazies but trust me, they're predictable. They can sometimes even be talked to, and we definitely have ways to make them less powerful. There's the Bush administration way, of course. But we can also work to make countries with more sustainable economies... extremism has a way of fading into the background when people aren't desperate and starving.

On the other hand, the off-their-meds lunatics aren't just unpredictable, they're everywhere. That's what scares me. Last year in my city, a high school kid working at QuikTrip got shot in the face and killed, and the shooter just sat outside the store after it was done, telling the police that the voices told him it was the right thing to do. A girl I graduated high school with took her little girl to the park a couple years ago, killed her and then turned the gun on herself. These are personal, way too close stories to me. I don't know anyone who was killed by a terrorist or crazy religious zealot.

And the scariest thing is that I read these stories from Va Tech where students knew that this kid wasn't right, even joked about him turning on people, and I see myself right there with them. Where I went to school we had several of those. I mean, a guy who lived in the first floor of one dorm was just known across campus as "schizophrenic dan" because he filled his room with television sets he'd found, stalked people in creepy ways, and asked maintenance to get rid of the equipment that the CIA was using to monitor him in the dorms. I AM NOT KIDDING. We made jokes to hide our discomfort the fact that he was actually really scary. He got worse as the years went on, and by the time I graduated he was homeless, we'd see him at wal-mart hording plastic bags. And I wish I could tell you he was the only one but there were others... one guy in my department, even. And the way they described the va tech kid as never talking to his roommates or making eye contact? That was my freshman year boyfriend's roommate, right there. We just sort of ignored him. We knew he wasn't right.

Because what can you do? Once you start accusing people of being too crazy to live in the dorms, you're supposed to figure out how to draw a line, and that's impossible. And you're supposed to figure out just what to do with them. So we live with these people, and eventually we get corporate jobs and HOPE they've been filtered out and live under a bridge somewhere and sell enough plasma that they're okay, but who's really okay? We give the mentally ill these random cocktails of medications... even well-off people with good health insurance and the sense to get help struggle with the fact that we haven't gotten very far in understanding our own brains. I have absolutely no answers. And that's why these people scare me more than any organized group of terrorists.

Final note... one story I read mentioned that this guy's final note to the world said some disturbing things about women. I just want to make a prediction that we won't hear much about that. The ties between general attitudes about women and violence are always downplayed, because it could mean that feminists have a point, and that's just so damn pesky. So everyone remember to get on the "ignore gender issues" bandwagon, m'kay? Also remember they weren't amish schoolgirls, they were amish schoolchildren, ask why the guy had issues with the amish, not what his perceptions of women were and where they came from. We don't want to act like sexist men are more violent than reasonable ones, men need to be allowed to be misogynists so we can keep the narrow definition of masculinity that's so sacred and traditional and, well, downright American!