Virginia Tech Massacre: America Breeds Violence

(Cross posted @

April 16, 2007. Virginia Tech and it’s students and faculty have become the next victims of America’s lust for violence. The facts are not all in, but so far it looks like more than 30 people were shot to death, around 26 wounded, and the suspect has yet to be identified.

From the NYTimes:

“I saw bullets hit people’s bodies. There was blood everywhere. People in the class were passed out, I don’t know maybe from shock from the pain. But I was one of only four that made it out of that classroom. The rest were dead or injured.”


This is not the first time Americans have had to deal with mass murder of this kind. Only 8 years ago, almost to the day, there was a School shooting at Columbine Highschool in Colorado. In fact recently there was another school shooting in Oregon, this time in Gresham (the same town, but different school, that I went to highschool in).

There is a very long list of seemingly random violence in America:

In 1966, Charles Whitman went on a rampage from a tower on University of Texas Austin’s campus killing 15 people.

In 1984, 21 people were murdered at a McDonald’s Restaurant in San Diago.

In 1998, Kip Kinkle ended the lives of 2 students and wounded 20 more in Springfield Oregon.

And they are but the tip of the iceberg, only looking at a small subset of mass murders. It doesn’t include the astronomically high numbers of random single murders that happen in our nation every year. The interesting bit, when looking at a worldwide list of mass murders, is how often America makes the list.

It’s time to take stock of the fact that there is something about the very culture of America that breeds violence. We are the richest and most prosperous nation the world has ever known. And yet we are the most violent country in the first world. As an example: I live in Portland. It’s one of the safest cities in America. And yet there are more murders here every year than in all of the country of Japan, a country with a population that dwarfs this small city. That is unacceptable.

It isn’t guns. Though that is an easy scape goat. A satisfying devil that we can attack while in the heat of anger. I wish it was guns, for that would be easy. But that fact remains that Canada has more guns per capita than we do, and they have a fraction of the gun violence. There is more to it than all that.

It isn’t video games. Japanese are far more into violent and brutally sexual video games, comics, and movies than we are … by a long shot. But they don’t act like we do.

It isn’t any of the classic “Boogy Men” we’ve been blaming for the majority of the last century. It’s something else. Something more fundamental, that cuts to the heart of who we are as a people. And that is inherently uncomfortable for us to accept.

It’s easy to dismiss the violence that occurs in the poorest of our communities (though we shouldn’t). That’s a violence that grows out of a situation we can understand. It’s easy to comprehend how Meth addicts can attack, since their brains have been so degraded. But the school shootings that happen on such a large scale, the random mass murders and bombings, committed generally by middle class kids or disgruntled workers, defies the imagination.

I don’t pretend to understand the mechanism, or series of mechanisms that leads us to where we are. But where we are is undeniable. We are violent by nature. And it is time to do something about it.


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