We are all Hokies today
Almost always, you can recognize it right away when you see it. Often, you can identify its perpetrators and strategy. Sometimes, you can point out some of the factors that fed its development. But to stare the final product -- evil -- in its cold, soulless eyes and truly, honestly understand its deep-seated, active disdain for humanity and morality -- well, that's a task that's beyond all but perhaps the most depraved members of society.
So, with no real way to comprehend utter iniquity, the public at large, desperate to make some sense out of a senseless act, is left fumbling to plug evil acts into a pre-existing frame of reference. Confronted with an inexplicable tragedy like the ruthless killing spree that ended 33 lives Monday at Virginia Tech, and with the sense of loss compounded by the fact that the murderer cowardly evaded justice by turning the gun on himself, Americans have grasped for something -- anything -- that could bring some order to the abject chaos at a bucolic college campus.
Do Americans have access to too many guns too easily? Should we bar people from carrying their own guns to school to protect themselves instead of having to rely on the police? Does our culture spawn violence by glorifying it too much? Do we have big problems in our approach to mental health care? What about our student visa process? And should Virginia Tech officials have shut down the campus more quickly after the first shooting incident?
All of these questions and more have permeated the national discourse in the hours after the Blacksburg shootings. All of them are legitimate inquiries that will be pondered endlessly in the days to come. All of them, in the end, are not so much the ultimate questions in which we're interested as they are efforts to cope.
As humans, we seek to substitute incomprehensible horror for a familiar debate, to flee the unfathomable abyss for the more comfortable terrain of scandal or political wrangling, to find a way to hold someone or something accountable for the tragedy when the person responsible is now beyond our reach. But the answer to the ultimate metaphysical question -- Why do bad things happen to good people? -- remains unknowable, at least in this world.
The profound sense of loss in Blacksburg is a quintessentially human experience, and as the saying gaining currency goes, we are all Hokies today. Togetherness may not provide the answers we seek, but it offers hope for healing and the promise that, united, we can surmount even the most wicked obstacles.