Tuesday, April 17, 2007

The Murderer at Virginia Tech

In the coming days you are going to here more and more about what drove Cho Seung-Hui, a 23 year old senior of the Virginia Tech English Department to commit mass murder. And placing blame is going to come along side it, some of it not necessarily wrong, but little of it right.

The sad fact is that while nothing could ever justify an evil act such as this, it will more than likely have to do with a girl, teacher, grades or an uncertain future. At least that will be the speculated reasons.

Regardless of what you hear in the next several days and weeks remember this. Ultimately there is no one else to blame but Cho Seung-Hui himself. He made the choice to murder and take innocent life by stalking and killing. And I think he liked it. What? You may ask. There are some people in this world who enjoy killing just for the sake of killing. I think in the wake of the two hours after the initial dorm murders were committed he decided that he actually enjoyed the murdering of people.

He got a power charge or a hard on or whatever. You can not tell me that he didn't shoot almost forty people and not enjoy it. He did.

Maybe the campus administrators should have shut down the campus as soon as they found out of the two dead. I certainly think so. It's called problem containment. But there is another unseen blame here. No one student or professor was capable or willing to stop him. Virginia has a carry conceal law, but it prohibits the carrying of firearms on campus. This law certainly didn't seem to stop Cho Seung-Hui from carrying out his attack. One or two students armed with a pistol in a messenger bag or under a t-shirt could have neatly perforated his head. But there is something else missing. Bravery. Grown an able bodied men cowered behind doors, desks, tables and chairs when they should have been doing something. The very same guys who are so brave playing their Special Forces video games in the dorms, or watching 24 and thinking how much they would like to be Jack Bauer (I like guy tv too). All the danger, none of the risk.

The cowardice to do nothing in yesterday's attack was just as evil as the murder committed by Hui. One student or instructor armed could have saved lives. One (or seven) well placed stab wounds from a folding knife from a sneak attack on Hui could have saved lives. A fire extinguisher sprayed and emptied and then applied to his head could have saved lives. We can not sit an condemn the French for surrendering or cowardice when we are raising our men in the same manner.

While this is no doubt a dark moment and spot in American history, and it is easy to point out that Hui was able to get access to handguns, let me refresh your memory to September 1, 2004, the Beslan School Hostage crisis. Doesn't ring any bells? Probably not. It happened in the Russian town of Beslan. A group of Muslim pro-Chechen rebels took 1200 teachers and student hostage. Russia isn't exactly known for its easy access to firearms. On day three gunfire erupted and resulted in the deaths of 344 civilians of whom 186 were children. You don't kill 186 elementary aged school children and not enjoy it.

Life isn't getting more violent, history shows us this. But the fact of the matter is that one day we are going to wake up and find that a suicide bomber walked into an American bookstore, coffee shop, mall and blew himself up, and that will be the start of it. And explosives are highly controlled and regulated in the U.S. so there won't be the standard excuses of blaming everyone else for the actions of those who commit evil.

There is in the end only one solution to problems such as this. Courage. Or more appropriately Courage Under Fire. If you are encountering someone who is trying to kill you and those around you the only reasonable thing to do is to kill them before they can continue. This responsibility falls on the men of society just as it always has, and not on waiting for the police to rescue you.

The amazing thing is that through repeated situations like this the world over, I still get asked "Why do you carry a gun?"

Wednesday, April 4, 2007

twilight’s last gleaming

"Three Yale University students, one a U.S. citizen born in Pakistan, were arrested on charges of setting fire to an American flag hanging outside a home.Said Hyder Akbar, 23, Nikolaos Angelopoulos, 19, and Farhad Anklesaria, also 19, were arrested early Tuesday on charges ranging from reckless endangerment to arson, police said."

I'm not an overly emotional guy, in the sense of crying. So when yesterday I read that three guys from Yale University had been arrested for burning the flag one might immediately think I was mad, which is true, but really more so I was heart broken. Truly sincerely heart broken, that kind of pain you feel when you miss someone you love or when a tragedy hits that had nothing to do with you and yours but it leaves you marked with sadness. I fully realize that it's not a big deal to the media or sadly enough to the American Idol viewing public and in a few days we'll hear no more about it. I could go on a tirade about how I firmly believe that if you burn the flag and someone assaults you for it, that it is also freedom of expression. Or that by burning the flag I believe you renounce your American Citizenship and should be deported. But I've decided to go another way instead. I came across something from my old Boy Scout Manual about the flag, it reads:

The National Flag represents the living country and is considered to be a living thing emblematic of the respect and pride we have for our nation. Our flag is a precious possession. Display it proudly. There are certain fundamental rules of Heraldy which if understood, generally indicate the proper method of displaying the flag. The right arm, which is the sword arm and the point of danger, is the place of honor. Hence, the union of the flag is the place of honor or the honor point. The National Emblem is a symbol of our great country, our heritage and our place in the world. We owe reverence and respect to our flag. It represents the highest ideals of individual liberty, justice and opportunity for all.

The longest undisputed and undefended border between two countries in the world is between The United States of America and Canada. You will find no heavily armed military service personal sitting atop tanks and humvee's on either side waiting for one to make a move. What you will find is Old Glory flying next to the Maple Leaf. You will also find her flying atop of institutions of learning, or in the halls of justice, but you will also find her often enough welcoming home the average man or woman from work or the child from school as it is sometimes found firmly anchored to the front porch. She's been to the moon and draped over our dead, she represents not the government but her people.

In 1831 a sea captain named William Driver was given a beautiful flag as a birthday present by family and friends where he quickly named her "Old Glory". She flew at sea for the next six years until he retired from life on the water, and took "Old Glory" with him to Nashville, Tennessee. On days of Patriotism he flew the flag loud and proud, but when the South seceded in 1861 Driver was afraid she would be confiscated by confederate troops so he hid the flag having sewn it inside of a comforter. On February 25, 1862 the Union army reclaimed Nashville and Driver removed her from her hiding place and went to the state capital and hoisted up the flagpole where he remained all night keeping watch armed and prepared to defend her and see that she came to no harm. Shortly before his death in 1886 he gave the flag to his daughter to keep. It would travel with her to Nevada and California where it was displayed from time to time. Then in the early 1900s the flag was badly deteriorating so she had it sewn to a bed sheet in order to stabilize it. It remained a family heirloom until 1922 when it was sent to the Smithsonian Institute and carefully preserved. It and the flag which flew over Fort McHenry during the British bombardment of 1814, inspiring Francis Scott Key to write the The Star-Spangled Banner to the tune of a British drinking song "To Anacreon in Heaven". Both of the flags are considered the two most historically significant in the country and two of the greatest treasures of the Smithsonian.

All of this begs the questions. What is gained by setting her on fire? Who sides with you? Whose hearts do you really win and do you really want them? If this is being progressive you can keep it, you're no friend of mine and I wouldn't care to have you sit at my table and break bread with my family. All my words are wasted though as Key said it best when he penned:

O say, can you see, by the dawn’s early light,
What so proudly we hailed at the twilight’s last gleaming,
Whose broad stripes and bright stars, through the perilous fight,
O’er the ramparts we watched, were so gallantly streaming?
And the rockets’ red glare, the bombs bursting in air,
Gave proof through the night that our flag was still there;
O say, does that star-spangled banner yet wave
O’er the land of the free and the home of the brave?

Tuesday, April 3, 2007

Meriwether Lewis

Though we are well into the 21st century and modern society is quick to forget such occurences as the attacks of 9/11, we are also quick to forget sometimes the very nature of America long before the highways, the vast sea of homes that are built in mere weeks and hi-speed internet.

Much has been celebrated the last few years with books and PBS specials of Lewis & Clark's Corp or Discovery, though there has always been one tarnish on the legacy. Lewis' death in 1809. Long speculated that he committed suicide by shooting himself twice (once in the chest and once in the head)after being in a dark state of depression, though many remain convinced that he was murdered. I like to think the later.

Men of Lewis and Clark's ilk have gone the way of the Dodo and it is doubtful we will ever see their kind again. Throughout the Corp of Discovery's journey they endured numerous hard ships and dangerous country where men and beast saught to kill them on a regular basis, and of the forty-two members only one man died.Sergeant Charles Floyd, whose appendix ruptured. Given that is was 1804 the good Sergeant would have died any where. So of all things read over the years I think Thomas Jefferson summed it up best in his writing about Meriwether Lewis several years after his death.

"Of courage undaunted, possessing a firmness and perseverance of purpose which nothing but impossibilities could divert from its direction, ... honest, disinterested, liberal, of sound understanding and a fidelity to truth so scrupulous that whatever he should report would be as certain as if seen by ourselves, with all these qualifications as if selected and implanted by nature in one body for this express purpose, I could have no hesitation in confiding the enterprise to him."


Our conversation had started with me asking “ So who shot you in the throat? ”, a basic conclusion on my part, b ecause on one sid...