Virginia Tech: an irreconcilable truth

We cannot simply accept these shootings as part of our lives as students

Alvin Tedjo, ArtSci ’06
Alvin Tedjo, ArtSci ’06

In writing this editorial I went through several drafts. Like many who have thought about the tragic events that occurred at [Virginia Polytechnic Institute and State University], I have mixed feelings. It seems my view on the subject can change with my mood, and I think this has a lot to do with the fact that many of us are still unsure of what to think about the tragedy.

What we know is that it was done by an individual who was deeply disturbed and had a number of issues with other individuals and society itself.

The question we ask ourselves is, what could have been done to prevent this? Most of the time our answers come up short, leaving us feeling incomplete and unsatisfied with the helpless thought that this may occur again, and probably will.

And we are shocked every time. Somehow though, the shock begins to feel familiar; shootings at Columbine, shootings in Montreal, shootings at Virginia Tech and last Wednesday, the fatal shooting that occurred in a Toronto high school. Will it ever stop?

Unfortunately, I believe it will happen again. Perhaps not in the same manner or for the same reasons, but an individual attempting to kill people will happen again.

I do not write these words lightly, as I realize that they have a very real impact on people’s feelings and emotional state. You may no longer feel secure in your daily lives because of this incident, or you may feel no different at all. To feel the latter, however, is a mistake. If we ignore this tragedy and chalk it up as another tragic isolated incident, it will simply keep happening again and again.

The debate so far has touched on whether anything could have been done to prevent Virginia Tech, whether violence in media and society affected the shooter, whether gun control should be stricter. Many people are now claiming their course of action will resolve this ‘crisis’ in our culture. And while we debate, the problems still exist.

How do we as a society deal with tragedies that we inflict on ourselves and are preventable? Disasters like the tsunami and Hurricane Katrina we can blame on nature and God. But how do we respond when it seems like the cause of a societal tragedy is society itself? Do we have an opportunity to change or influence society so it doesn’t happen again? Doing something for the sake of action is not the answer. We have had memorials; we have had discussions. Soon we need to have actions. We cannot simply accept these shootings as a part of life that we, as students, must learn to live with. Every time something like Virginia Tech happens we are reminded of how little we have progressed. If we need better gun control to deny access to disturbed individuals from taking advantage of a lenient system, then we should have it. If we think it should be easier to alert authorities about potential problem individuals, then it should become easier. But we need to come together and decide.

I understand that many of these things are easier said than done, but what disturbs me is that I believe authorities are more concerned with working towards what to do in response to when these incidents occur, instead of what we should do to ensure that preventative programs are in place and that incidents like this will happen far less frequently.

Change, however, comes in steps, and those steps need to begin somewhere. As “the leaders of tomorrow” it is our job to play a role in how these events are addressed today, and in the future. It starts here at Queen’s, in your residence, your faculty, your classrooms. We are responsible for our society and how it treats its members. We need to be asking our administration to implement solutions, we need to be asking our student government to lobby for what we believe to be appropriate measures, we need to be making a difference, and we needed to have done it yesterday.

Our response right now matters in the debates we have, the solutions we discuss and the memories we keep of this event and the 33 individuals it took. If we begin to take action, perhaps violence in society and violence in schools will not forever be dealt with as an irreconcilable truth.

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