Would it be reasonable to expect students at Virginia Tech to have rushed the psychotic murderer Cho Seung-Hui?
This question has generated numerous reactions typified by, “You’re dishonoring the memory of those who were killed by deigning to ask it.” Some have said that, “not having military training is not their fault.” This is true. Whether it is actually relevant is another question. I don’t think it’s the training they didn’t have. I think it’s the training they did have.
It is clear that far fewer people would have died in Virginia Tech classrooms had the reaction of some students been similar to Todd Beamer‘s and others on Flight 93. Not dying quietly has become the predisposition of every American airline passenger. The question about VT students’ reaction to similar shock is therefore worth asking. Is asking it an insult to the dead at Virginia Tech? I don’t think so.
There are reports that some students actually took effective defensive measures; they locked their classroom doors. The majority, however, seem to have been unprepared for the idea that evil might intersect their campus experience. To point this out is not to dishonor them, it is not their fault.
Unlike Virginia Tech professor Liviu Librescu, who died defending his students, the students themselves had mostly never seriously contemplated the problem of evil. They had been encouraged to suspend their own judgment (being non-judgmental is an absolute virtue), and to consider all cultural mores to be equivalent (multi-culturalism is an ultimate goal). They had probably never considered that this mantra excuses ritual incest and cannibalism, or that it equates video taping beheadings committed by religious “zealots” with civil objections to partial birth abortion. America goes to some trouble to ensure its public school graduates cannot think intelligently about ethics.
A survivor of both the holocaust and communism, Professor Librescu was less troubled by these faux-uncertainties. He knew that evil is omnipresent, and that failure to confront it has poor outcomes: Israeli professor killed in US attack. Librescu lived with a different world view than did most of the students who were murdered. This is a sad comment on how the rest of us have failed those students.
It wasn’t the students’ fault they did not respond appropriately to an existential threat. Most were applying what they’ve been taught. These teachings are exemplified by the pride Virginia Tech’s administrators took having a “gun free” campus, and by the indoctrinal moral relativism to which any public high school graduate is necessarily exposed. The ability to concretize “rushing this gunman and pummeling him comatose,” was frustrated by a subconscious question something like this: “The United States of America is responsible for a long series of atrocities – unprecedented in world history. The sane of the world hate us for it. Therefore, how can we be sure Cho Seung-Hui is not right to shoot us?”
This is the message of MoveOn, the Daily Kos, Nancy Pelosi, Ted Kennedy, Harry Reid and the majority of teachers to whom these students’ education had been entrusted. It was, not coincidentally, the posthumous message of Cho Seung-Hui.
Most VT students weren’t ready to defend their own lives because they could not believe their lives were at risk. This evil could not be happening, and if it was, many of them couldn’t avoid the subconscious possibility that they deserved it.
Please read Mark Steyn on this same topic: Let’s be realistic about reality. An excerpt;
I’ve had some mail in recent days from people who claimed I’d insulted the dead of Virginia Tech. Obviously, I regret I didn’t show the exquisite taste and sensitivity of Sen. Obama and compare getting shot in the head to an Imus one-liner. Does he mean it? I doubt whether even he knows. When something savage and unexpected happens, it’s easiest to retreat to our tropes and bugbears or, in the senator’s case, a speech on the previous week’s “big news.” Perhaps I’m guilty of the same. But then Yale University, one of the most prestigious institutes of learning on the planet, announces that it’s no longer safe to expose twentysomething men and women to ”Henry V” unless you cry God for Harry, England and St. George while brandishing a bright pink and purple plastic sword from the local kindergarten. Except, of course, that the local kindergarten long since banned plastic swords under its own “zero tolerance” policy.
I think we have a problem in our culture not with “realistic weapons” but with being realistic about reality. After all, we already “fear guns,” at least in the hands of NRA members. Otherwise, why would we ban them from so many areas of life? Virginia Tech, remember, was a “gun-free zone,” formally and proudly designated as such by the college administration. Yet the killer kept his guns and ammo on the campus. It was a “gun-free zone” except for those belonging to the guy who wanted to kill everybody. Had the Second Amendment not been in effect repealed by VT, someone might have been able to do as two students did five years ago at the Appalachian Law School: When a would-be mass murderer showed up, they rushed for their vehicles, grabbed their guns and pinned him down until the cops arrived.