I’ve been debating about writing on the Virginia Tech shootings. I was thinking that I have all the feelings I’ve been reading about: sadness, grief, shock. Nothing new than what’s already been said. But if I look at it honestly? I don’t feel anything. I am sad that it happened. I feel sorry for the families who are dealing with this. But I’m not shocked. I’m not surprised. I’m not angry at anyone or looking for someone to blame. That’s what’s kind of sitting odd with me. I have no reaction. Usually I’m up til 1 am watching Anderson Cooper in case there’s anything new. And grieving with a knot in my stomach, crying and praying. I don’t know why this is different.
When the Columbine shootings took place, I was horrified. While the world demonized and refused to memorialize the shooters, I felt bad for them and their families. I could never justify their actions in a million years but I understood them. I had a number of awful school & family experiences and I would sit and plot elaborate schemes how I would make them all pay. My mind never imagined blowing up the school or going on a rampage. Still I wanted to smack those people down along with the adults who didn’t stop it. As much as I tried to let people know I was hurting, I couldn’t get anyone to listen. So I started to exaggerate and fabricate to get their attention. They ignored me all the more thinking that if no one reacts, the behavior will stop. Kind of like dealing with a grown-up tantrum. It just made me more determined.
As an adult, I knew a couple attention-cravers and I had the same reaction. “Oh forget ’em. I don’t need this kind of drama. If you don’t give into their antics, they’ll see its not working and stop it”. You know what though? That’s not true. As a needy person, I would have stopped showboating if someone would have paid attention. And not just paid attention or gave lip service but if someone would have come alongside and invested in me. Or at least had the courage to say, “Can you tell me what’s really going on? What are you looking for?” Of course, at that time, I wouldn’t have recognized it in those terms. I just wanted someone to hear me.
I had a horrible drunk driving accident when I was 18. I was the drunk. Thankfully I damaged only property and no people. Except me. I didn’t purposely set out to hurt myself–and hurt myself I did. But I didn’t mind my family giving to me emotionally. That felt pretty good. Scary how a person thinks isn’t it? So 22 years later and wiser I hope, I can now ask for what I need instead of rage for it.
OK, so how does that apply to the seemingly pathological person we might be dealing with in Virginia? I don’t know. I’m certainly not saying that if he only had a friend he wouldn’t have massacred 32 people. I don’t know him or how many friends he might have had, and I hope I wouldn’t be so insensitive to think it is that simple. I’m just saying that pain is a powerful motivator and loneliness makes one desperate.
We can’t undo what’s been done. We can’t restore what’s been taken. So what do we do? I guess we comfort where we can, when we can and reach out. Is there someone in our own circles of influence we need to notice? Is there a question we could ask to offer help in some small way? Do you know anyone who just wants/needs to be heard? Maybe simply acknowledging them as a person would be a good place to start.