Tuesday, April 17, 2007

how to exploit a tragedy

I heard about the shootings at Virginia Tech University yesterday on my way home from my allergy doctor's office. Some days I like to torture myself by listening to right-wing talk radio, and this time it was Bill Manders, the local right-wing blowhard on KOH (780 AM).

At the time that I heard Manders's show, it was only a few hours after the shootings, and already Manders was exploiting the deaths of 33 Virginia Tech students for cheap talking points. His tortured logic was that the tragedy at Virginia Tech was the fault of liberals -- because if every student and faculty member at Virginia Tech were allowed to carry a concealed weapon on campus, it never would have happened. In other words, more guns equals fewer deaths. Caller after caller dialed in to agree with Manders, to take gratuitous potshots at Ted Kennedy, and to lay the blame at the feet of "the left." Not one person made anything more than a cursory gesture at respect for the dead before launching into a crazy, ill-informed, and hateful rant against liberals. Not one person pointed out the utter lack of evidence to support the claim that more guns leads to less violence. Not one person reminded Manders that it was in incredibly poor taste to score political points while the bodies in Blacksburg were still warm. It was disgusting and horrifying.

I wish that we could mourn this tragedy together as human beings, to allow some sort of grace period, before resuming the hateful rhetoric that dominates our public discourse. And I wish that we could have rational, problem-solving dialogue about what might be done to address acts of violence such as this. I am a resolute supporter of the Second Amendment (just as I believe in defending the rest of the Constitution), but I don't see any convincing evidence that this tragedy could have been prevented by relaxing our gun laws. "Ted Kennedy's car has killed more people than my gun" is not a logical argument.

The last time I was at Virginia Tech was in 1995. I was hiking the Appalachian Trail, and a couple of Virginia Tech students I met on the trail, Jim and Chris, offered me a beer, a meal, and a couch to sleep on. There was nothing whatsoever in it for them; it was an act of pure generosity. Those two guys probably graduated ten years ago, but they're probably not so different from the people who died at Virginia Tech yesterday. Let's discuss solutions -- and let's assign blame, if appropriate -- but let's show enough respect to wait until after the bodies are in the ground.


Nevada Blogger: JWH said...

Very good post. I was equally pissed off listening to Bill Manbders blame the "liberals" for what happened at VT.

Keep up the good work.

Jim said...

Thanks for your encouraging words, JWH. I'm not exactly surprised, but I've been pretty disturbed by the right wing's handling of the Virginia Tech massacre. In addition to Manders's crass opportunism, there's also bloggers John Derbyshire and Nathaniel Blake, each of whom blamed the victims at Virginia Tech for not displaying sufficient "manliness."