Wednesday, April 18, 2007

Baghdad, Virginia

Metro Baghdad and the Commonwealth of Virginia have about the same population, somewhere between 7 and 8 million people. As has been pointed out on the internets (f'r instance, here, here and here), Baghdad suffers death and mayhem on the order of a Virginia Tech Massacre every day.

Of course, the VTM has dominated the news all week, with 96-point headlines and special interactive features. The president stopped by the campus and gave a good, short speech. All kinds of local stuff was cancelled, the football team stopped practicing, and even the Congressional testimony of Alberto Gonzales was postponed for two days. Plus, of course, there are 32 funerals to plan.

Why can't the media focus on some good news? Surely there was a school painted somewhere in the Old Dominion recently. Putting Cho Seung-Hui on every front page and at the top of every newscast sends the message that violence and terror are winning the day.

Let's try a little word game. I've removed a few closely-related terms from the following news account:

BLACKSBURG, Va., April 16 -- An outburst of [blank] at a Virginia Tech dormitory, followed two hours later by a ruthless string of attacks at a classroom building, killed 32 students, faculty and staff and left about 30 others injured yesterday in the deadliest [blank] rampage in the nation's history.

The [blank], whose name was not released last night, wore bluejeans, a blue jacket and a vest holding [blank], witnesses said. He carried a [blank] and a [blank], both with the serial numbers obliterated, federal law enforcement officials said. Witnesses described the [blank] as a young man of Asian descent -- a silent killer who was calm and showed no expression as he pursued and [blank] his victims. He killed himself as police closed in.

He had left two dead at the dormitory and 30 more at a science and engineering building, where he executed people taking and teaching classes after chaining some doors shut behind him. At one point, he [blank] at a custodian who was helping a victim. Witnesses described scenes of chaos and grief, with students jumping from second-story windows to escape [blank] and others blocking their classroom doors to keep the [blank] away.

The [blank] barged in with two [blank], [blank] the professor in the head, then started [blank] students, Perkins said.

Panic ensued, he said. "And the [blank] seemed like it lasted forever."

The [blank] left Room 207 and tried to return several minutes later, but Perkins and two other students had blocked the door with their feet. He [blank] through the door.

Gee, without those missing words, what did he kill all those people, and himself, with?

Of course, the deleted words are all variations of gun and shoot. (For the record, they are, in order: gunfire, shooting, shooter, ammunition, 9mm semiautomatic, .22-caliber handgun, shooter, shot, shot, gunfire, gunman, gunman, guns, shot, shooting, shots, gunman, shot.) Without a gun and a ready supply of ammo, Cho Seung-Hui is just another disturbed loner ranting about all the poseurs and phonies in his creative writing class.

OK, you can take all the gun references out of a newspaper article, but you can't take all the guns out of society. Guns are here to stay. You can't wish them away. (Yes, it's true -- even I have one.) But all guns are not created equal, nor should they be treated equally.

Gun nuts aficionados will tell you that Guns 'R Good for huntin', self-defensifyin', and exercisin' their God-given Second Amendment right to keep and bear 'em.

With all due respect to certain members of my extended family, hunting is stoopid. Hunters will tell you that hunting is a sport. Yeah, so's NASCAR, I guess. Or they'll say it's about respecting and preserving our cultural heritage. For me, I'm not that eager to recall the days when the menfolk had to set off into the woods to catch dinner and eat or be eaten. It seems like a pretty hardscrabble way of life (not to mention the basis for about half of the tales of the Brothers Grimm). It's kind of like celebrating the Black Plague or the Irish Potato Famine.

Hunting is usually only half of the anthropological descriptor of most pre-agricultural societies. You know: "hunter-gatherer." Men were typically the hunters, and women were the gatherers. So if hunting is a cultural heritage thing, how come you never see gangs of women heading upstate for the weekend to do some heavy duty gathering? Outlet shopping doesn't count -- I'm talking about foraging for roots and berries.

Fishing is pretty dumb, too, but on the other hand, you never hear about anybody killing 32 people with a fishing rod before turning the lure on himself.

If all of these hunters really want to honor their forbears, they should chase Bambi around the woods with, at most, a bow and arrow.

In the old days, people supposedly had to hunt in order to eat. Who still does that? (I mean, besides Ted Nugent.) Nowadays, we have Karn's. Even Perry County has supermarkets. But some hunters will gnaw through stringy, mangy pellet-ridden muskrat to "prove" the point that they Eat What They Kill.

Still, you want to hunt, go ahead, hunt. You can even use guns. But here's the thing: Why can't we distinguish, in our gun laws, between rifles and shotguns and other "sport" weapons intended to make Bambi an orphan, on the one hand, and Glocks and AK-47s and other military-type "assault" weapons on the other? Who, besides Uncle Jimbo, uses that kind of firepower to hunt, even to take down Bullwinkle J. Moose? There are no free range elephants in North America.

But what about the Second Amendment?

"The president believes that there is a right for people to bear arms, but that all laws must be followed," spokeswoman Dana Perino said.
I'm not picking on the president; lots of people use this argument. The thing about the Second Amendment is that gun nuts supporters never quote the predicate:

A well regulated militia being necessary to the security of a free State, the right of the People to keep and bear arms shall not be infringed.

Where are all of these well regulated militias? Which one did Cho Seung-Hui belong to? Or Eric Harris and Dylan Klebold? Randy Weaver belonged to a militia, but it wasn't well regulated.

Stop The War.


Anonymous said...

The Second Amendment of the U.S. Constitution is antiquated. It must be repealed. The "survival of the fittest" doctrine never meant to include mechanical machinery. The result? Senseless death.

P.S. The VPI (VA Polytechnical Institute) brouhaha pales in comparison to the daily massacres in Iraq. I'm an American and admit we are a hyppocritical society! Let's debate the means!!

evil columnist said...

Wish I was this clever and could write like you. Good stuff. We agree, but you said it better.