Juxtapositions

April 20, 2007

It’s been a long week. No, I certainly can’t claim it’s been a bad week, personally speaking, but a week where I feel keenly aware of the public and personal tragedies inherent in being human. As well as some of the joys.

On the public front: I’ve mentally crafted and erased hundreds of sentences about the whole Virginia Tech situation. I’ve listened to and read news stories, and have been especially sympathetic to professors who had the gunman in their classes, suspected something was horribly awry with him, and were unable to prevent the horror from unfolding. It brings back memories of a student I had in Beginning Composition when I was a graduate student at Ohio State. For no reason I ever understood, he despised me (which actually was pretty unusual among my students), and set out to destroy my class and intimidate me. His class journal was filled with epithets directed against race, gender, sexual orientation, etc. He used to come to my office hours, get really up-close into my personal space and rant about his grades in my class. It got to the point where a couple of office mates refused to leave me by myself in the office. I (sort of) jokingly kept telling people, “If I’m found murdered in a ditch, for the love of God, look at my class roster, because HE did it.” I had trouble sleeping and I dreaded with the sickest stomach teaching my class — and I’ll be honest, I hated him for that, because I really enjoy teaching. Toward the end of the quarter, I had the most vivid dream that I told him off, used the F word and everything…and the hell of the whole situation was that as a graduate student, I had very little power to kick him out of my class or to force him to have any kind of mental evaluation…but he always seemed one moment away from perpetrating some sort of violence.

In my wildest imaginings at that time, though, I never could have pictured something as horrible as the massacres at Columbine or Virginia Tech. I have read some that say this gunman’s acts are a reflection of our culture of violence, and to an extent I think that’s true — perhaps this gunman wouldn’t have snapped if he hadn’t seen the precedent of the killers at Columbine. Or perhaps he would have. But I think it’s a false correlation to say that America’s (or even Bush’s) stance on geopolitical issues perpetuates a violence that encourages such a massacre. I think it’s anyone’s right to oppose — vigorously oppose — the government’s (both present and past) position on say, the war in Iraq– but to say or even imply that the intensely insane acts of one individual are somehow a result of America’s position in Iraq — well, that seems quite a stretch to me. If that correlation were to hang together, then how does one explain Columbine (or other school shootings or other violent acts, period) that occurred well before 9/11? Heaven knows, I’m no apologist for Bush, but really? I think that this gunman was criminally insane, and his violent acts were his responsibility alone. There may be a lot one can pin on Bush, but this one doesn’t make sense.

Juxtaposed with the public tragedies of this week is the very private tragedy of (yet another — God, why?) a family I know struggling against cancer. Despite what I wrote and truly believe about God’s mercy and judgement, I have been simply heartsick. Again. I must not fully understand God’s redemption because right now, I fail to see how this family’s experience will ever be redeemed, will ever be righted. The cruel randomness of suffering in this world…the lovely kind person who gets terminal cancer…I have no words right now.

And in another juxtaposition, we got a kitten this week (I’m going to post pictures later — Tim has to help me download them from the cell phone. Yes, I am the geek who will post pictures of my cat. What have I become??). Gracie has such energy, such joy, such life. And that’s been good for all of us. Okay, yes this morning she woke me up at 6:00 because she wanted to play (which involved jumping on my head, but anyway…), which was not the time I really wanted to experience all that life. But to watch my kids fawn over her and kiss her sweet face? To have Dan say, “Even if Ohio State could have beat Florida, if it meant I had to give up Gracie — it wouldn’t be worth it. Gracie IS my national championship.” This? Worth being awakened an hour early any old day.

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One Response to “Juxtapositions”

  1. John McCollum said

    Wow. Dan must really like the cat.

    You ought to tell him she’s a Gator fan.

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