I am usually quite cynical. Most major world events bring out the cynic in me. Usually I watch a single newscast so I can know enough information to carry on a conversation. Usually I don't watch anymore news for a week following the event because it's inevitably going to be about said event. Usually I am so grossed out by the media that I throw up a little in my mouth. Usually.
There have been three world events that have gripped me enough to watch the television for many weeks looking for news stories. They've entered into my consciousness enough for me to actually buy a newspaper and spend free time searching for info on the internet. A lot of that information is in the back burner of my mind because the everyday stuff is up front, but every now and then I find myself still thinking about them. On April 16, 2007 another event entered into that group.
I am haunted by the Virginia Tech Massacre. That's not entirely true. I am haunted by one particular sentiment of the Virginia Tech Massacre. I didn't watch the quote, unquote distasteful tape of the murderer or anything else that was sent to NBC. I don't have any personal feelings about that, I just didn't watch. The thing that jumped out at me in the news shows I watched and interviews I listened to was that over and over the killer was described as 'the loneliest person you could ever meet'.
Now I know that there was a lot more going on in this man's life than him just being lonely. But the lonely factor is what is haunting me.
I watched an Oprah episode a while ago on which they featured a couple, Yvonne and Rich who began Challenge Day in which they go to schools and face the bullying epidemic. During that show Yvonne said something that I will never let go of. She said that the biggest problem in our highschools today is loneliness and isolation. It's not drugs, it's not promiscuity, it's not even bullying really. Isolation and loneliness is the key issue facing the next generation.
While all of our kids are striving after the "American Dream" getting burned out by their activity schedules in kindergarten, since sports have become scholarships and not games, when everyone has an iPod or blackberry or cellphone or whatever technological device they carry before they're old enough to need one, while we live completely disconnected lives in the most connected phase of our history; while all that goes on we aren't necessarily fixing any of the shortcomings we had in our past generations.
As a woman who has married a man who will be spending his life with teenagers this is especially haunting to me. We have the generation or two that come on the heels of the Virginia Tech murderer's generation already isolated and lonely. I will say again that I completely recognize there was much more going on in this man's life than just being lonely, but do you see the issue?
Do you see how history is already doomed to repeat itself? How there are already so many people out there who need to connect and not be lonely so that they don't do rash things? Do you see how we're so mistakenly playing the blame game by scapegoating video games and hip hop when really the issue is our disconnected culture?
I don't really know how to fix it. I wrestled for a long time with even posting this because I do think is a valuable dialogue to have so that through discussion we can find ways to not repeat history. I don't know if anyone else thinks these things or not, but I decided to write them anyway. If for no other reason than to get them out of my head so I can hopefully sleep again.
He was the loneliest person you could ever meet. Sadly that's not a unique description.