Yes, it's a tragedy. Thirty-three people dead, including the gunman. But in Iraq, this number of killings would be a good day. And in Darfur, a miracle to have only that many lives lost on a Monday in April.
Listening to the radio in my car this afternoon, I heard a reporter say that decades from now, the Virginia Tech tragedy would still be on the minds of Americans.
I doubt it. And also, I hope not. There are many more important things to be focusing on than a massacre by one crazed man. Like the thousands of people being needlessly killed in Iraq. And the hundreds of thousands in Darfur.
The United States is prone to unseemly fits of self-absorption. Whether it is 9/11 or Virginia Tech's 4/16, American deaths get blown way out of proportion in comparison to the suffering occurring in other parts of the world.
The whole nation jumps to attention when a few Americans are killed. Hundreds, thousands, or even hundreds of thousands of deaths in another country elicit a yawn.
I couldn't believe it when I saw that Alberto Gonzales' appearance before the panel investigating the firing of federal prosecutors had been postponed until Thursday. That's absurd.
In 2004 over 11,000 people were murdered by guns in the United States (about 70% of the 16, 137 total murders were by firearms). Thirty-two, not counting the killer—that's a drop in the murder bucket.
Around thirty people every day are murdered in the United States by someone using a gun. Why don't we have a continuous day of mourning for them?
Answer: because they usually don't happen in highly visible bunches, as at Virginia Tech. And the NRA wouldn't like the attention put on the relation between the availability of guns and the murder rate.
England has a strict handgun ban. Not coincidentally, England has a murder rate only 1/6 of ours. The Virginia Tech shootings point to an obvious fact: this nation's NRA-fueled obsession with the Second Amendment leads to a lot of unnecessary deaths.
It's way past time to look at how other countries are handling guns in a much wiser fashion than the United States is. But that'll require us to recognize that we aren't the "greatest nation on Earth" in many, many respects.
Less self-absorption and more honest self-analysis of our shortcomings—that's what this country needs.