Tuesday, April 24, 2007

Blame for the Virginia Tech Massacre

A friend forwarded Del Tacket's editorial on the Virginia Tech massacre to me today. Tacket blames this tragedy on "an inherently sinful nature," and claims that "Evil lurks in the heart of man and it will erupt when it is allowed to act unconstrained."

Like Tacket, I'm disgusted by the callous adoption of this tragedy to promote political agendas without first taking time to mourn it. And I agree that blaming various social problems for it obscures the fact that Cho was responsible for his own actions.

But I see no benefit to placing blame at all. I think attempts to do so are oversimplifications of the many interacting influences on events. It seems to me that people who try to pin blame on one person's character, weak gun control laws, inadequate mental health care, or whatever, are hoping to find a simple way to prevent such events. I think it's much more beneficial to try to understand as much as we can about the various contributing factors that led to this event, and take steps to mitigate the problems that led up to it. This was a highly visible tragedy, but many less obvious ones happen every day becase of the same problems that caused this one.

I think Tacket would have presented a stronger case if he had avoided judging people as "wicked" or "sinful," which simply condemns them according to his moral standards; I don't think doing so is helpful in understanding their thinking. He apparently believes that there are only two possible judgements of human nature: tragically flawed or basically good. I see people as natural. Some are better than others by my moral standards, but each is different.

I don't see evil lurking in the hearts of the people I know. My impression is that the vast majority of people are motivated primarily by good will toward other people. Some commit heinous crimes in misguided attempts to improve their own lives or those of others. I've heard very little about Cho's manifesto, but the fact that he wrote one seems to indicate that he hoped society would benefit from his murders.

I sympathize with the families and friends of those who were murdered, including the family of the murderer. I grieve especially for those people who, like Cho, feel desperately lonely and angry with the "wicked" people who fail to welcome him into their society.

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