"Death and Taxes"
They say that nothing is certain in life except for death and taxes.
After watching the tragedy in Blacksburg, Virginia unfold on my television screen on Monday morning, I felt incredibly sad and even more foolish for feeling so upset about the money I was to be paying to the IRS the following day.
It refuted my plans to drown my sorrows in red wine while listening to old blues records, and like so many Americans did on Monday, I watched the television to the point where I wasn't sure if I was going to go blind or start to cry. In this age of desensitization, I don't think I've been that blown away with sadness and astonishment since 9/11.
At my deadline for this column, what is known that 33 people were killed on Monday morning in a place that should be reserved for higher learning and the molding of the minds of the future leaders of this country: an American university. The day unfolded with crazed gunfire and senseless rage like you would see in a Quentin Tarantino film, but unfortunately, it was not a fantasy or a film that earns an "R" rating for gratuitous violence.
It was real.
I can say nothing other that it is a tragedy, and the whole country mourns that a school shooting, especially one on this level has happened yet again in this country.
I turned the television off however, when the news anchors turned their questions in order to report the news to spewing questions that were nothing other than leading speculations on whom to blame for what happened even when bodies were still being counted.
The most common queries were 1. "Did the university react in the proper manner? 2. Were they timely? 3. Who else is to blame (other than the obvious gunman)?"
I think that as time goes on and the story starts to open into more juicy layers there will be other questions that will spark fear and cause concern for every person in this country. I doubt it will be long until a follow-up story is done that asks "are our children safe, are they under too much pressure to get good grades, and are they mature enough to handle being on their own?"
The gun issue will be brought to light again, and the NRA and the 2nd amendment will be argued just like the 1st amendment was argued the week before in the Don Imus scandal. You know where the "journos" are going to go with their follow-up stories because they are always the same.
First, you report the story. Next, you follow-up with an in-depth, "who's to blame" piece, and finally you do the "one year later" story asking what is the aftermath and lingering effects of the event.
Although those are interesting stories, it doesn't answer a few other questions like what do we learn from this so it doesn't happen again? It also doesn't answer how our society and those that live in it got to a point where walking into a classroom with a few hand cannons was the last resort.
I watched the movie "Bobby" (about the night that Senator Robert F. Kennedy was assassinated at the Ambassador Hotel in Los Angeles) on Monday night for a little cinematic escape, and it was nothing of the sort. It was a scary parallel to the tensions that still go on today. Not only in the tensions in the issue of race (as was so exemplified by jean-jacketed-good-ol'-boy Don Imus and the Reverend tag team of Jesse Jackson and Al Sharpton), but also in the issues of war, class, and ethical leadership.
It's a fine film, and you should watch it, if nothing else but to try to prove me wrong that the things that are said from 1968 don't still ring true today, and the things that were problems then, haven't been fixed yet.
If they were, events like the last few weeks would not be happening as often as they do.
There is a bigger gap in the class system in this country than there has been in decades.
There are the "Have's" and the "Have Nots." The "Have's" think that everyone just wants what they have and they must protect it, and the "Have Not's" think that everyone else is trying to keep them from getting any of what they don't have.
It's creating a society that goes way beyond a "dog eat dog", "me first, gimme gimme" mentality. It's rather creating a society of close-minded folks that only see past the end of their nose, whom only can smell their own personal struggle.
I see it like this: A few bad seeds shouldn't ruin the whole crop.
I hear rich folk all the time saying they don't want to pay welfare, or other means of state assistance because of the few people that screw the system and are out of work deadbeats. Should the "have's" be exempt from helping the "have not's" because of a few bad seeds?
The NRA will undoubtedly argue in the wake of this most recent national tragedy that a crazed gunman should not rob Americans from their right to bear arms. Inevitably, Charlton Heston will say something to the effect of "not because of a few bad seeds you won't (or he'll just say 'from my cold dead hands' again"
The real tragedy in all of this is that if we don't learn anything about ourselves and try like hell to change them in the wake of Blacksburg. Instead of pointing the blame at someone else, shouldn't we be looking at ourselves and questioning how we can change the obvious tension, greed and violence which plagues our daily lives?
At the end of the movie, there is a recorded speech from Bobby Kennedy, and it was truly inspiring on both a political level but on a human level as well. It said things like "ignorance breeds hate, which breeds violence, which only breeds more violence, which has never truly solved anything in our history."
Perhaps in the age of desensitization, it takes tragedies for us to snap out of our self-righteous haze and see the bigger picture.
Because if we don't learn something from our mistakes, or our history, or even current events, doesn't that cheapen the lives that were lost?
Change isn't something that can just happen with a vote, or a foreign policy. It starts with a personal commitment to being a better person, a more informed person, a person that doesn't teach their kids to hate someone because they are different, even if it is simple things like curbing your lip when you're at a dinner party and you're defending Don Imus.
Sure, Al Sharpton may not have apologized to those Duke lacrosse boys for their year of hell, but I think their year of hell pales in comparison to what this country did to an entire race. It is the skeleton in our country's closet that we can't hide. The issue in their case is not a racial one, it was made racial by the scumbag that was trying to get re-elected and rushed to judgement. That's who should apologize, not by the NAACP, just because the accuser was black.
Some of our biggest tragedies in our nation's history keep repeating themselves, and that makes me think that we haven't learned a damn thing about how to stop them from happening again.
Perhaps that is because we have to look within.
That's about as certain to me as paying taxes, or my own inevitable death by red wine, lung darts, and the blues.
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