20 April 2007

One more reaction for the woodpile

I'm only now able to make some sense out of my own reactions to the Virginia Tech massacre earlier this week. As with anyone else with shards of decency, I mourn the loss of students, of professors, but most of all I mourn what has now become of these kids' college life. I remember back to my own college years ... after a freshman year "at home" attending a community college in Hot Springs, Ark., I hit the ground running for my sophomore year by going off to Arkansas State in Jonesboro. It was, and is, well-known for its Radio-TV program, so that's where I went.

It was one of the best things I ever did. I met some great people along the way, and was privileged to attend a university that truly was not a cliquish, stuck-up, greek-driven culture. No matter who you were in life, how much of a pathological loser you thought yourself to be, there was a group of people at A-State to take you in, as glad to have you as you are to have them. I dare say one had to go out of their way to be an outcast at Arkansas State University.

1984-1987 were among the best years of my life. My college years. Full of fun, full of frolic, full of worries (exams), full of stress (grades) -- full of everything which comes with an idyllic college existence, set to a soundtrack of noisy, crackling Mantovani LPs (KASU).

I can't help but imagine what it would've been like had such a mass-murder taken place in Twin Towers ... or Kays Hall ... Delta Hall ... Arkansas Hall ... or University Hall. What if some punk burst into a classroom in Wilson Hall or the Communications/Education building to plug a professor he, she or it (yeah, IT) hated.

Those poor students. This will stay with them, I'm sure. How could it not? This time last week, it was just another day at VT. Another building block for the edifice of memories. 'Fraid not; a terrorist (call a spade a spade) took care of any of those silly notions.

Ahhhh, but not before he hit the post office between outbursts to mail his package to NBC.

Inside every terrorist is a fool wishing to cut into the line for American Idol. Same ego type. Wants their 15 minutes of fame 15 minutes ago.

And our mass media -- yes, even Pox News -- ate it up like fried chicken on a buffet. More on that shortly.

Other thoughts?
  • Unlike nearly a decade ago with Columbine, this took place on a university campus. This means the most dreaded of creatures rears its head: UNIVERSITY POLITICS. My wife works at a college. My previous job was at a college. College administrators, I'm here to tell you, are down there with crabgrass, cockroaches and Clear Channel. Always ready to second-guess, to find somewhere else to point the blame so it doesn't go anywhere near the administration building. The abbreviation CYA, I'm convinced, originated on a university campus.

  • Said administrators are going to start scapegoating, to stave off the inevitable mobs of worried parents. "What are YOU doing to protect MY child?" To the outside, any kind of 'feel-good', 'warm and fuzzy' approach to keep parents from sending their kids to other universities. On the inside, hell for university employees micromanaged to death in carrying out these (often unfunded) mandates.

  • I have to wonder how Troy Not-State University is handing this. I fear this will revive a dormant idea its chancellor had in the mid '90s: blocking off all entrances to the campus except for two (both ends of University Drive). Never mind that VT's killer was a resident student; facts tend to get in the way of irrational thought.

  • Meanwhile, I'll bet Troy is puffing itself out, boasting about how such a thing would never happen on their campus. Earth to Troy State: That could happen anywhere -- especially at a place like TSU, where a deeply-rooted greek 'caste' system defines college life. If you're not in a fraternity or sorority, you are a lost outsider. For over 10 years I saw it.

  • People are pointing fingers at Virginia Tech, accusing them of delays in warning other students. I say this is a pile of thoroughbred feces. E-mail might be the most efficient way of communicating with the university community short of Paul Revere-esque running through hallways ... however not everybody checks their e-mail first thing in the morning. Some people (ahem)me(ahem) used to sleep in as close to class time as possible. Five minutes to cop a quick shower, seven minutes to run - yes, run - over to the Communications building, meant being able to sleep as late as 740 AM to catch an 8:00 class.

  • Some students were asleep at the time the shootings occurred. Y'see, it is possible to have your first class at, say, 10:00 or even (dream on) 11.

  • Did it occur to these armchair-quarterbacks that 20 years -- hell, TEN in many places -- there was no such thing as student e-mail accounts??!! So lay off VT. The ugly truth is, sometimes people have to fend for themselves.

  • And, just as I feared, a new debate on gun control has been ignited. I've always been anti-gun control (what part of "second amendment" don't people understand?). The redneck phrase "If guns were outlawed, only outlaws would own guns." is dead-on true. What if some of those students had guns of their own, thus the ability to defend themselves? Some of 'em might've been able to plug that bastard. Result: a death toll of fewer than 32. This isn't the gun's fault. It's the person pulling the trigger.

  • Back to NBC for a moment. They sent the package to the FBI (after, of course, making copies for themselves). Good for them. As for disseminating this info, it was not an easy call for the network to make. To have not broadcast any of it would've opened NBC up to charges of censorship. They opted to air portions. But in doing so, they clearly overdid it. Ergo, this terrorist was built up into a supreme martyr, giving him everything he wanted.

    "Do you want to see Mr. Kia's manifesto again? LET'S TAKE A LOOK! Blood On the Quad: The Virginia Tech Tragedy ... brought to you by Texxon. Life goes on, and Texxon is there. Because 31 people would have wanted it that way."

  • Why the need for "local angles"? Why did a Memphis TV station send crews to Virginia?? C'mon, people, that's overkill. Mention the fact that however many students were from the area, and leave it at that.

  • Why the need for voyeur journalism? I hate how TV networks rush grieving family members before the camera, where they'll be asked trite questions and we'll get to see them all cry before a national audience. I get very uncomfortable when such personal feelings are aired out before the entire country -- world, even. As I see it, crying and grieving are private emotions. Obviously, the networks and the people who watch them don't think so. God help this country. "If it bleeds, it leads. Does she grieve? Don't let her leave!"

  • Don Henley summed it up well in his 1982 hit song "Dirty Laundry."

  • This is why I do not get my news from the television.

  • Talmadge to media: Go home. Let these people grieve among themselves. God knows they've been through more in a week than most during their entire lives.

  • Here's a doozy of a what-if: had Don Imus made his infamous comment a week later, it would've probably gone unnoticed. Rutgers' basketball team would be just another bunch of girls playing roundball. Imus would still have a job. It sucks to shoot off ones' mouth on a slow news week.
And that's it for now ... I have another disturbing fear about this, something bigger than all of us, but it deserves a separate post.

Ciao for niao.

--Talmadge "Nobody deserves that kind of hell" Gleck

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