Monday, April 23, 2007

Virginia Tech

Today marked the one-week anniversary of the shooting in Blacksburg, Virginia. Those times were commemorated this morning with silence and a release of balloons. This past week on NPR I heard that New Orleans is currently experiencing 2 murders per day, which is a lot for a city with only 200,000 or so people. These murders have been making headlines. The commentator noted that 2 murders in Chicago might not make the news. How we react to a situation has a much to do with the kind of categories we put the incident within. The shootings at Virginia Tech, like those at Columbine High School in Colorado, or the Essex Middle School in Vermont get put into a certain category -- tragic shootings in a school where such things should not happen. The kidnapping and murder of just one student at the University of Vermont made national news last fall. Other incidents such as murders in cities that occur on a daily basis and the deaths of armed service members in Iraq, and the deaths of countless people every day around the world as a result of bombings, genocide, or starvation are put into other categories. As far I as I know, there are no memorial services every 16 days for the 32 murder victims in New Orleans. Yet, the same amount of people have died as died in Blacksburg. These people are sons and daughters, mothers and fathers, friends and neighbors. Smalll groups may be mourning, but the nation or world of concerned strangers are not. The President of the Unversity of Vermont has circulated emails about the Virginia Tech tragedy, as is appropriate and expected. Yet he does not circulate emails about all the other tragedies around the world. Why? It is because we put things in different categories. I am not criticizing the President of UVM, for whom I have a great deal of respect. The problem I address is ubiquitous.

Mindfulness helps us to see our categories, and one way to think about mindlessness is to be bound by our categories that cut us off from reality. It makes sense to mourn and honor the death of those that died in Virginia. It does NOT make sense to ignore the deaths of others that do not fit the category of "things that should not happen."

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