Tuesday, April 17, 2007


My boyfriend and I, while at the Tang center, started talking about the Virginia Tech shooting. He seems to think that gun control laws would help with something like that. He compared America to Singapore in that respect. I thought that I remembered something about how gun control laws don't correlate that well with gun safety among various countries. The memory is fuzzy; I can't really vouch for its accuracy. It became quite a debate between us.
But I digress. It was obvious how bothered he was by the incident, which makes sense since he works with kids and I still go to college. This made me consider my own reaction, or rather, my lack of one. Even now, I don't really feel bad about it; I think its tragic, I wish the families well, and I hope the victims (and the perpetrator) are at peace, but I don't feel much of anything. If I were personally connected to anyone there at all, I would probably be feeling terrible, but after nearly constant news about Iraq, Afghanistan, Pakistan, Sudan, not to mention the human rights violations in China, Iran, and implicitly the dozens of other places I can't think of or don't know about, I feel strangely desensitized.
It seems strange, and even insensitive, to measure one's personal reaction against something like this. I realize, though, that it is all that I have. My grief won't help anyone, although I would probably want others to grieve if something like this happened. I am powerless to help them; and even saying that just brings the thing back to me. Yet even feeling bad itself seems almost sacriligious, as if I had a right to think or feel anything for people that I wouldn't have noticed otherwise. I think tragedy as I understand it is always personal. Me intruding into the lives of victims with my own emotions feels just as insensitive as not showing any emotion at all. Moreover, I feel like it is a pre-packaged grief that we are handed to process in a certain way. Newscasters change their tone, the media reports on it exclusively for two or three weeks, and then slowly people lose interest. And the people left behind still have to pick up their lives.
Even so, I sometimes wonder at my own lack of compassion. I can feel very deeply for someone, even a complete stranger, if I am together with that person at the time. What I lack is that ability to feel generalized concern for a large number of people with whom I share no personal connection. While this is a personal failing, it seems like an understandable one for anyone who ever listens to the news or watches TV. Still, I find myself wondering if that is something that I will ever be capable of. And I wonder if I am a fool simply to frame all of this in terms of myself.

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