“What If It Happened Every Day?” Keith Boykin Writes

By The News Apr 17, 2007

Writer Keith Boykin offers some tough analysis in the wake of the Virginia Tech shooting. Made us here at RaceWire give two snaps:

tnews was gruesome and alarming. Reuters reported that at least 30 people were shot yesterday in a deadly gun rampage that rocked a city once known for its safety and scholarship. By now, you’ve heard about the story, and many of us have already stopped paying attention. But I’m not talking about the deadly school shooting in Virginia Monday morning. I’m talking about the deadly violence in Iraq that goes on everyday. While most of the world was understandably horrified by the campus shooting at Virginia Tech yesterday, almost no one paid attention to the 30 people who were shot and killed in Baghdad on the same day. The shock and horror of watching such dramatic violence in Virginia immediately resonated with Americans. But here’s something else to ponder. What if it happened every day? What if we saw that kind of carnage in our communities every night on the evening news? It sounds far-fetched, but that’s exactly the situation that faces many Iraqis almost every day of the year.

If the shooting in Virginia tells us anything about human society, it should tell us that violence is far too common in the world. It’s not just an American problem or an Iraqi problem, it is a global problem. What kind of world do we live in where young students have virtually unfettered access to sophisticated deadly weapons that can be used to kill their classmates and teachers? And how did we become desensitized to the tens of thousands of civilian casulaties in a war we’re still fighting in Baghdad? I don’t think it is possible to stop every murder or every killing that takes place in this country or abroad, but I do believe we have a responsibility to promote the conditions for peace. For all the talk about our Christian values in America, we are an extraordinarily violent society. The FBI reported 1.4 million violent crimes in the U.S. in 2005 and more than 16,000 murders. That’s a drop from the record high figures in the early 1990s but it shows that we are still far too violent. Through elective wars, capital punishment, gang violence, and media depictions of violence, we demonstrate our collective societal preference for violence as a solution to our problems. I don’t know what motivated the young student in Virginia to shoot up his classmates, and I don’t know what motivates the suicide bombers in Iraq to blow up their neighbors. But I do know that we have a duty to promote peace in this country and abroad. Imagine the impact that could be made if America lead an international campaign for peace instead of a war on terror. Imagine the goodwill we could generate if we diverted some of the $500 billion we’ve spent on war in recent years so that we could build hospitals, schools, and housing throughout the undeveloped world. Imagine the difference it might make if our leaders dropped some of the macho rhetoric and talked about service, duty and community responsibility? I know there will be much discussion in the next few days about gun control and mental health counseling and legislation, and I welcome that conversation. But we should also ask ourselves about the world we’ve created and what each of us can do to make it better and more peaceful. The Virginia shooting was shocking, in part, because it was so unusual. Unlike the Iraqis, we’re not accustomed to seeing such large-scale violence on a regular basis. Or, more precisely, we’re not accustomed to seeing it here in the United States, because clearly we know it’s happening in Iraq. But what if it happened here everyday? That might be the tragic catalyst that would finally inspire us to do something positive and constructive about the violence in our country and the rest of the world. It would be tempting to point to the shooter in Blacksburg and isolate him as the problem. But the problem and the solution don’t lie outside of us. They answers are within.