Senseless violence kills more than holiday

Staff Writer
Mount Shasta Herald

Another day in America, another massacre.

What, only nine dead this time, including the shooter? Heck, it's not even the biggest blood bath this year, far from a record. It didn't make every front page. It was page 3 in Peoria.

Except that the survivors of the victims cannot avoid or dismiss it, as they prepare to bury their loved ones after the unthinkable — make that the not-so-unthinkable — happened Wednesday in their town of Omaha, Neb., known for its beef and benevolent billionaire, for its Boys Town and Creighton Bluejays, for its Missouri River and now, sadly, its Westroads Mall. Omaha reminds you of a lot of places where these types of events aren't supposed to happen, to good people — including a 2005 Illinois State University graduate — just going about their daily business.

Last April it was Blacksburg, Va., on the campus of Virginia Tech, which saw the slaughter of 33 students and teachers. It's hard to fathom the heartache.

We can write the script for what happens next with eyes closed. Again, police arrived too late, so there will be the usual fingerpointing on that front. The national media will descend — it is news, still a deviation from the norm, though becoming less so — and will breathlessly stay on the air, even when there's nothing new to report.

The psychologists will do the cable talk shows and express dismay that nobody saw the shooter coming, what with this high school dropout's troubled home life — he was a ward of the state for four years — his experimentation with drugs, his recent job loss, his split with a girlfriend, his chronic depression. He was another young man — 19 — mad at the world, in his warped mind getting even for some slight, real or perceived. "Now I'll be famous," he wrote in a farewell letter. We, at least, will deny him that one distinction by withholding his name.

Of course this will turn into another gun debate. The pro-gun folks will say that if everybody in that department store had been armed, it wouldn't have gotten this far, and they're probably right. The anti-gun folks will say that if nobody had guns, it wouldn't have gotten this far, and they're probably right. Whether the semi-automatic rifle used here was obtained legally or illegally didn't much matter to the victims, picked at random. Like the Virginia shooting, the weapon allowed its wielder to build a huge body count in just a few minutes.

And then everybody will go back to watching their gore for entertainment, glued to their "CSI" and their "Criminal Minds" and their DVDs of "Saw," "Saw II," "Saw III" and "Saw IV." About the time of the Virginia Tech shooting, one of those CBS shows aired an episode about a serial killer who made wind chimes of his victims' rib cages. If an alien were to land on Earth and spend an evening watching prime-time network TV in America, he'd think John Wayne Gacy and Jeffrey Dahmer were lurking on every street corner.

Alas, we're led to believe none of this has any effect on young, impressionable minds, in a nation where billions are spent on advertising because it is believed to have such an effect on young, impressionable minds.

To be sure, the great majority of people can distinguish fantasy from reality and can cope with disappointment. It's the already disturbed you worry about. Seems like more and more kids are.

It is fair to wonder how many arbitrary, innocent victims there must be, how many holidays must have the happy stolen from them, before anything changes. Not that anybody should miss any shopping.