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Blood in the Mind, Part 2

Now we know. The gunman was mentally ill. His creative writing teacher had notified all the authorities that she could. But, according to law, no one could take "action" until Cho Seung-Hui had threatened to harm someone. Not likely from a young man who did not even say hello when greeted by his classmates or neighbors. In fact, Cho Seung-Hui never said anything at all to his own college roommate. Remember dorm rooms? Those cubicles with bunk beds or some other arrangement that maximizes limited space? Can you imagine being in close quarters like that and never saying a word to the person with whom you shared them? He had not verbally threatened anyone, although his creative writing was full of violence and threatening content. But he had set fire to his dorm room earlier. Is that not considered threatening behavior?

There needs to be a way to address the dangers caused by mental illness before physical threats are made, before fires burn out of control. The law is the result of logical--and faulty, and ignorant--thinking. It assumes that a mentally ill person will threaten first, then act. That is not always the case. While we wait for laws to catch up with reality (it will be hard because there is so much "grey" area to consider), parents need to learn more about mental illness. How could this young man's parents have watched his behavior and not been militant about getting him help, including hospitalization? How could they have even thought he was stable enough to go to college?

And, gun control, it can no longer be denied, is an oxymoron in this country. There are 65 million hand guns in the US (these are just the registered ones). 11,500 people die from hand guns every year. It is the height of absurdity that in this country, where we cannot board an airplane with a bottle of water in our hands, that a resident alien with a history of mental illness can plunk down a credit card and walk out the door with a gun. The only criteria the shop owner had to adhere to was to be sure that his buyer had not committed a felony. Women cannot board a plane with a tube of lipstick on their person, but a resident alien, not a citizen, can buy a gun. And then murder 33 people.

But let's leave the US for just a moment. Let's turn our gaze to Iraq, where what happened at Virginia Tech happens EVERY SINGLE DAY AND NIGHT to innocent men, women, and children. As Larry Johnson says in his post at TPM Cafe, "This is horrible and this is tragic and it gives us an idea of what it is like to live just one day in Iraq."

Closet the guns. Stop the war. Pray for the families and friends who have lost someone they love, blasted by bullets, bloodied by steel, killed for no good reason at all. Tragedies like this one should make us see that there is no dividing line between political parties, countries, cultures, or classes. There is only one dividing line, the one that passes between good and evil. We may need to look twice to be sure which side of the line we are on.

Text and image, copyright 2007 Ysabel de la Rosa

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