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Martin LeFevre: Isolated Incidents

Meditations - From Martin LeFevre in California

Isolated Incidents

“We believed the first two shootings were an isolated incident.”
- Blacksburg, Virginia Police Chief

So now America has three anniversaries of unvarnished evil to commemorate in a single week: April 19, 1995--Oklahoma City; April 20, 1999-- Columbine; and April 16, 2007--Virginia Tech. Nonetheless, the need to believe they are “isolated incidents” will continue, because this is a country that is, like its president, still in massive denial.

The president of the local college in the bucolic northern California town where I live uttered the same falsehood as the Virginia Tech president. It’s the same refrain that our infamous President Bush repeats over and over.

In knee-jerk fashion, compelled by a people needing to deny the truth at the core of this country and culture at all costs, men and women in leading positions of moral authority reflexively speak of “the goodness of our community and nation.”

On the day of the massacre, CNN put up a macabre shot clock, with Wolf Blitzer asking the viewers to vicariously experience the extinguishing of human life through the audio of gunshots on a cell phone video, which recorded the unseen executions in one of the classrooms. “Count along and listen to this eerie, eerie video,” said the amoral Blitzer. That too is the sound of evil.

Such cold-blooded sensationalism is part and parcel of the mainstreaming of the cultural sewage that nurtures cold-blooded killers like Cho Seung-Hui. The media’s fixation on the irrational individualistic motives of a perpetrator through whom collective evil courses makes them complicit in the madness. Dumping all of society’s ills onto madmen like Cho, making them solely responsible for originating such evil, guarantees there will be more like them.

Beneath the gun crazy, militaristic mindset in America, the common thread in young mass murders at schools and colleges in this country is the utter lack of caring that kids feel from adults. Truth be told, one is hard put to find anyone who gives a damn in America anymore. Young people know this reality well.

It should be apparent by now that the greater the psychological separation within a person and a people, the more dehumanized the other becomes. That’s also why the evil that America unleashed in Iraq remains a distant abstraction, a surreal partisan debate about funding “our troops.”

The cornerstone of this culture is the separate individual; indeed, the separate individual is the sine qua non of social life. But individualism breeds alienation like dark caves breed fungi.

Isolation and self-hatred, as well as self-absorption and indifference, find fertile soil in this culture of extreme individualism. Though few “loners” turn into pathologically homicidal/suicidal killers like Cho, the fact is America grows Chos by the thousands in stagnant ponds outside the mainstream of conformity, collective denial, and neglect.

The more bizarre Cho became, the more students looked the other way and labeled him “weird,” with his own roommates telling girls he glommed onto in a desperate effort to connect with people to “just ignore him.” A couple of professors saw that he all but wore placards declaring his psychosis, but the neglect of a soulless people has been institutionalized, and sets a bar no teacher can clear.

The word ‘soul’ is about as imprecise a word as there is. On one hand, it has religious overtones; on the other, it has come to mean something similar to heart, feeling, and character. It’s in that sense I use the word, with an added emphasis on the essential intactness in an individual or people.

When the death of a nation's soul occurs, as it did in America in the early ‘90’s, such events become the norm, “a fact of life.” But though denial has its reign, truth will have its day.

The day after the bloodbath in Blacksburg, nearly 200 people were blown to bits in Baghdad. Non-stop coverage of the “fallen” and “heroes” of Virginia Tech kept that news off the front pages.

“There is no synchronicity between American culture and foreign policy,” the pundit class intones. That’s another falsehood, another denial. Iraq is the mirror image of America; what you see externalized every day there is happening invisibly every day in this country. Of course, there are some days when it’s dreadfully visible.


- Martin LeFevre is a contemplative, and non-academic religious and political philosopher. He has been publishing in North America, Latin America, Africa, and Europe (and now New Zealand) for 20 years. Email: The author welcomes comments.

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