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How to Make Sense of the Senseless


How to make sense of it?

How to make sense of the fact… that 32 students and faculty of Virginia Tech woke up yesterday morning to begin another day of teaching and learning, but they lay dead in their classrooms and dorm rooms before lunchtime.

How to make sense of the fact… that families who yesterday morning were eagerly anticipating commencement or summer adventures are now planning funerals.

How to make sense of the fact… that a university, dedicated to advancing the highest expressions of human intellect, is devastated by the basest human impulse to violence.

How to make sense of the fact… that a madman can purchase guns freely in this society, and yet, so many voices are raised on blogs and public commentaries advocating more guns, saying that if more people were armed the shooter would have been stopped.

How to make sense of the fact… that this keeps happening, that the most advanced civilization in the history of the human race is also the most violent, victimizing its own children in the places of learning where they should be safest.

How to go on… we will walk this new landscape in solidarity with the students, faculty and staff of Virginia Tech in the weeks to come. We pray for them, for the victims, for their families. We will talk about how to prevent the “next time” from occurring. We will review emergency plans, security procedures, install more equipment, hire more guards, conduct more drills, armor our more open inclinations against the evil that shoots into classrooms.

But we know that random acts of madness will occur again, because we cannot possibly know the deep trauma, utter hopelessness that may be driving someone to plan an ultimate public act of despair. We will watch each other more closely for the outward signs, while planning silently for the moment when we may need to take cover.

Today is a very bleak day, not just for Virginia Tech, not just for higher education, but for this nation. We send completely mixed signals to our rising generations here, as well as to the world: we send the army far away to fight terrorism when, in fact, some of the worst terrorism occurs right here at the hands of those we think we know.

We pay lip service to the value of life while advocating the possession of weapons of death and destruction.

We say we are horrified by the bloody scenes from once-idyllic campuses while we have a hard time remembering whether we saw it on the news or in a movie or television show, since what we claim to abhor is also our entertainment.

We try to make sense of it all, when deep down, we know that what we have witnessed makes no sense at all. Recovery can only begin when we acknowledge the disease: responsible citizens need to raise their voices more urgently, loudly and passionately against the prevalence of violence in this culture, against the ready availability of weapons.

Read Valerie Strauss, “Universities are on Alert, Rethinking Own Security” in today’s Washington Post.

Other articles from today’s Washington Post, and New York Times, The Roanoke Times.


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Patricia A. McGuire, President, Trinity, 125 Michigan Ave. NE, Washington, DC 20017
Phone: 202.884.9050   Email: