Friday, April 27, 2007

Virginia Tech Shootings -- Who's to Judge?

I probably should be beyond shock by now, but this article in today's Philadelphia Inquirer ("32 Memorial Stones? Or 33?") shocked me. Virginia Tech student Katelynn L. Johnson added a 33rd stone to a memorial consisting of 32 stones, one stone meant to commemorate each victim of the shootings. The 33rd stone she added was meant for the shooter.

When there was an outcry and someone removed the 33rd stone, this was Johnson's reaction:

"'To see this community turn on one of its own no matter what he did is heartbreaking to me,' Johnson said. 'If we're a community, we're a community. If we're a family, we're a family. You can't pick and choose your family.'

"'We lost 33 Hokies that day, not 32,' she wrote. 'Who am I to judge who has value and who doesn't? I am not in that position. Are you?'"

There you go, folks, the perfect ultimate product of Progressive education. Identification with the collective as a primary which trumps everything; and the complete inability and unwillingness to make any moral judgements whatsover. You can't even really say whether a mass-murderer is, well, maybe, a "bad" person.

I have to believe that Katelynn is still a somewhat extreme example. But if she is not, America is now primed for dictatorship -- give it one or two more generations. Who can judge if a Hitler or a Stalin has value, or doesn't? If he's part of our community, then he's one of ours, and when you're family, you're family. Let's stick by 'em. Doesn't matter what they did.

Not exactly the kind of principles that would send you to the ramparts, willing to fight to the death for what's right. Who are you to judge?

Update: Apparently in my naivete, I was still in my own mind overestimating Katelynn Johnson's character. The article describes Ms. Johnson counting out the 32 stones, and then reacting as follows: ""I just lost it. I broke down. I was seething. I remember saying . . . 'How could people be so mean?'"" I initially had assumed she 'broke down' as a result of contemplating the tragic killings of 32 people, and that her 'how could people be so mean' comment was directed at the shooter. As it turns out, what caused her to break down was simply the absence of a 33rd stone, and her 'so mean' comment was directed at those who only placed 32 stones. I guess that's the real tragedy and injustice here. (But then again, who are you, Ms. Johnson, to judge who is 'mean' and who isn't? Are you really in that position?)


Blogger Michael Caution said...

"I'm not in that position. Are you?"

You're damn right I am! Johnson's moral equivalence of a mass murderer to his innocent victims is utterly horrendous a thought. Cho should be severely condemned as evil just like Hitler. There's your moral equivalence.

12:41 AM  
Blogger johnnycwest said...

Of course this sensitive young girl weeps for Cho. He is the greater victim, since he was suffering from a mental illness and had no responsibility for what he was doing. He suffered for years with a mental disability - his life was out of his own hands. His victims died tragically, but they died as the result of a random act more similar to an earthquake or tornado, than to a conscious act of evil.

I am speculating of course, but I believe that many people would share this assessment. I do not. I believe our thoughts and actions are products of our minds and decisions, which are certainly affected by our mental inputs and brain chemistry, but not ruled by them. We rule and choose our own thoughts and actions.

The study of human psychology has a long way to go to understand human mental health, let alone so-called mental illness. But I question the metaphor of an illness as it is currently applied to human thoughts and actions. I believe that Dr. Thomas Szasz and Dr. William Glasser hold important ideas concerning our ability and our responsibility to choose our thoughts and actions.

Our current culture and the fields of psychology and psychiatry encourage people to consider themselves slaves to their thoughts and emotions - and the more deviant they are, the less control they have. This idea is bad for society and is tragic for the individual and their families.

This sappy girl is the product of the current ideas about mental illness, and moral and legal responsibility. I reject this notion of mental illness, but I could be talked into considering a cultural illness.

2:55 PM  

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