Just Plain Foolish

Just a chance for an old-fashioned, simple storyteller to say what needs to be said.

Friday, April 20, 2007

It has been a heavy week. As I mentioned yesterday, the shootings in Blacksburg have been sitting heavily on me for a number of reasons. I've felt so much sorrow for the folks affected by this tragedy, and yet did not feel I could yet speak.

My family has a history of mental illness. I have an uncle who was hospitalized for a while to help him deal with his illness, and he is still on medications. Another uncle was bipolar before his plane crashed in a field. And I went to a school where extremely abusive bullying was tolerated. And I sometimes wonder what would have been the result had I inherited a stronger predisposition. So my frequent reaction to school shootings is to wonder why there is so little attention paid to the violence of bullying until it is forced by such an incident. And to feel sorrow for not only the victims, but also for the perpetrator and his family. And to wonder not only why he went down his path and I and many other survivors of bullying do not, but also what we as a society can to to better care for our people living with mental illness.

How also can we put limits on the violence of bullying? This morning, the Washington Post had a column on its editorial page that dismissed the potential of words for violence, comparing them to the Virginia shootings. And yet, violence is not confined to its most extreme examples. For instance, we would hardly say that the recent attack was not violence because war results in a greater loss of life. As a high school student, I lived with constant verbal harassment, and the occasional physical assault, including one attack by a classmate that I now know to have been a form of sexual assault, but that at the time simply left me feeling frightened, ashamed, and humiliated. I know violence because I have experienced it on the receiving end, and I am sad to say, sometimes on the attacking end.

And yes, I had some very violent fantasies about what should happen to many of my classmates. But when I got to college, things changed. I was no longer around the same people, and there were many interesting new people to meet. And I gradually let go of the anger and desire for revenge.

How can we help others to recover from the traumas that have already been inflicted and prevent more from occurring?

As a coworker said to me this morning, quoting the radio station he listened to, who was quoting the great poet, anonymous: "There are no passengers on spaceship Earth. We are all crew."

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Anonymous Anonymous said...

Your thoughts strike a chord. My husband and I were both harassed in school. And, this is one of the reasons why we removed our son from public school as well. (Such aggression in public school has gotten much worse since we were kids. Even the "good kids" are the bullies now.) I don't know why the system has never been able to effectively deal with this type of behavior within their own institutional walls, but so it is. We barely can manage within society, as the shootings at VA Tech demonstrate. I have had a heavy heart this week as well.

4/20/2007 7:35 AM  

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