Tuesday, April 17, 2007

The Imus Fiasco and the Virginia Tech Massacre—What They Have in Common

Why is it that these campus massacres seem to be a unique American phenomenon?

Last week the country struggled to understand why the Imus fiasco hit such a raw nerve.

This week, a 23-year-old Northern Virginia kid took some kind of rage out on dozens of innocent people at Virginia Tech.

Could it be that the two share some kind of common thread?

I believe they do.

In my mind that thread has to do with the mean spiritedness that seems to pervade this modern American society.

What does it say about us that “shock jocks” make millions of dollars a year and have millions of listeners? Talk radio is full of people on the right and left who can’t say enough disrespectful things about those on the other side of political issues—and make their own fortune driving a daily wedge between us. If someone doesn’t agree with them they are stupid, ignorant, and even unpatriotic.

On Capitol Hill and in the White House, Democrats, or Republicans, can’t offer enough vitriol about people who think differently then they do.

America’s health care challenge is made all the harder by political and policy opponents who have little respect for each other in the everyday debate. Each side can’t seem to see any value in the other’s proposals.

Go to a ballgame or travel the expressway and the lack of civility among us is an everyday occurrence.

The vast majority of us can live through this mean-spiritedness and still not buy a gun and take it out on our neighbors. But on the far edge of society a very few apparently can’t—particularly these young people at places like Columbine and Blacksburg.

If the center of our society, our leaders in Washington, and our popular media elite, make themselves successful by developing mean-spiritedness, disrespect, and the devaluing of those they disagree with into an industry, why should we be surprised that out on the edge an unstable few take it the rest of the way?

Maybe what Imus was about is that most of us have finally had enough of this garbage. I hope so.

If so, it was too late for these kids and their teachers.
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