Please Leave Your Agendas At The Door

I tried. I really really tried.

I wanted to not mire myself in the political discourse of the Virginia Tech shootings. It’s not that I don’t think that government has a place in the debate, it most definitely does, and there should be some public debate on some of this stuff, but I knew from the onset that the debate would turn ugly quick and stay there.

It did. It has. And I’ve had enough.

You know, for the past few days my computer screen has been usurped by images of the fallen victims, intermingled with the haunting images of Cho Seung-Hui, sometimes far off and out of touch while other times hijacked with an illimitable ire.

I’ve sat and bit my tongue as I read article after article from people all over the political spectrum, each with their own little pet project percolating through their opinion pieces, oozing through their exhibitions of grief or indignance like so much political filth.

I’ve sat and watched and grown more and more frustrated as countless commentators have hijacked this terrible incident to make some political statement or the other. I’ve read people blame this on radical Islam, even AFTER it was released that the shooter was South Korean. I’ve seen people call Cho a Christian nut. I’ve seen people blame it on everything from nightly news to video games and violent movies.

And oh please oh please lets not forget the gun argument. CNN today just ran two op-eds, one calling for the banning of guns, while the other implied that we need more guns and the Brady bill is evil. While the halls of our governing bodies may not be battling out the story of gun control, anyone with a keyboard, an internet connection, and an axe to grind regarding gun laws is hacking away at this story with unmatched zeal.

And it’s all just disgusting. Guns aren’t the problem here, so leave it alone. Take guns out of the equation, and Cho Seung-Hui would have pulled out a machete or baseball bat or a friggin’ HAMMER. In the greater picture of this, guns were just one of the symptoms… Yes a very deadly symptom, but a symptom none the less and if you truly profess to try and look at the situation rationally in the hopes of finding answers, then you cannot honestly talk about either banning guns or arming everyone because that’s not the point.

You can point your finger at our culture, but let me tell you something, NO CULTURE IS PERFECT. Anyone who has read me for a long time knows that I hold the culture of this country in the highest regard. It is perhaps the one thing about this nation that I am the most proud of. My wife is Chinese, my stepmother is black, I’m part Japanese and Hawaiian, and mostly white. I have Latino cousins, and a gay brother, and only here is that possible. Only here on these shores could you find such tolerance. We are a wide and diverse family, and we have some terrible feuds amongst each other, but we make it work. We are limping across the pages of history toward what I like to think of as a brighter future.

But we are not perfect, far from it, and in all the factors that go into the daily life of our families there are no end to stressors and negativities, and yes people’s feelings get hurt, yes people feel trodden upon. We will never be able to escape this fact.

But to imply that Cho went on a rampage because he was subjected to violent video games? Are you serious?

But I can bark all I want, you won’t listen. People swipe at the bully pulpit greedily, hungry for whatever seconds of soundbites they can get, eager to fill up a few inches on recycled paper, hoping to jot down a few paragraphs in cyber space all in the name of some cause or another.

Well, to you, I ask only this. Before you bludgeon your agenda into the debate, do me one favor, I want you to read the following list:

Christopher James “Jamie” Bishop-German Professor aged 35. Husband of Stephanie Hofer

Brian Bluhm-Graduate student aged 25. A Detroit Tigers fan, was preparing to defend his thesis for his masters degree.

Ryan Clark-student aged 22. Working on a triple degree for philosophy, biology, and English. Had a 4.0 grade point average.

Austin Cloyd-freshman aged 18. She and her mother were inspired by an Appalachian rehab project and started one of their own in Illinois.

Ross Abdallah Alameddine-Sophomore aged 20. Survived by his mother Lynnette.

Jocelyne Couture-Nowak-French instructor. Helped start a French school in Nova Scotia, and survived by her husband Jerzy Nowak.

Daniel Perez Cueva- Peruvian studant aged 21. Grew up in Lima playing soccer in the streets. His brother in law serves our country in Iraq.

Kevin Granata-Professor aged 46. Considered by colleague to be one of the top five biomechanic researchers in the country.

Mathew Gregory Gwaltney- Graduate student aged 24. Was nearly done with his thesis, and served as sports editor for his high school news paper. Was planning on moving back close to his parents when he finished his degree.

Caitlin Hammaren-Sophomore aged 19. Came down here from New York, and majored in international studies.

Jeremy Herbstritt-Graduate student aged 27. Studied civil engineering.

Rachael Elizabith Hil-Freshman aged 18. Studied biology, survived by father Guy Hill.

Emily Jane Hilscher-Freshman aged 19. Avid animal lover, and used to work in a veterinarian’s office.

Jarrette Lane-Senior aged 22. Loved the “Simpsons” and graduated valedictorian from his high school in Narrows Va.

Matt La Porte-Majored in political science and leadership. Wanted to be an Air Force officer.

Henry J. Lee-Fled to America with his family from Vietnam…

Liviu Librescu-Professor aged 76. Aeronautical engineer, and Holocaust survivor. Reported to have blocked the door when Cho arrived to give his students a chance to flee to safety.

G. V. Loganathan-Professor aged 51. Indian born professor, survived by brother G. V. Palanivel, and their elderly parents.

Partahi Lumbantoruan-Graduate student aged 34. From indonesia, hoped to be a teacher here in the U.S. His family sold off property and cars to pay for his tuition.

Lauren McCain-Freshman aged 20. Worked in a department store for a year to make the money needed to attend Virginia Tech.

Daniel O’Neil-Graduate student aged 22. Played and wrote his own songs that he posted on his website

Juan Ortiz-Graduate student aged 26. Survived by wife Liselle Cortez. Was a teacher, and played in a salsa band with his father.

Minal Panchal-Graduate student aged 26. Indian native who wanted to be an architect like her deceased father.

Erin Peterson-Freshman aged 18. From Centreville Virginia, she and her father engaged in the widespread Virginian rivalry of Redskins vs. Cowboys. She was the ‘skins fan.

Michael Pohle-Senior aged 23. Studied biology, used to play football and lacrosse.

Julia Pryde-Graduate student aged 23. Had traveled to Ecuador to look at water quality issues and hoped to return to continue her work.

Mary Karen Read-aged 19. Her aunt said she was intimidated by how big Va Tech was, but was beginning to come out of her shell and was even considering joining a sorority.

Reema Samaha-Freshman aged 18. Loved dancing. Even belly dancing.

Waleed Mohammed Shaalan-Doctoral student aged 32. He’d come to America to work with Professor Loganathan. Is survived by his wife and one-year-old son.

Leslie Sherman-Sophomore. Loved to travel, and keep in touch with her fifteen other college student cousins. Was planning on travelling to Russia for the summer to study.

Maxine Turner-Senior. Already finished her required credits to graduate next month, but took German as an elective.

Nicole White-Junior aged 20. Came from my area, Hampton Roads. Used to be a lifegard at the YMCA.

Cho Seung-Hui-Senior aged 23. English major. Was declared mentally ill and a danger to himself and others in 2005. After killing 32 students and faculty members took his own life.

This list is easily found. You can find it on CBS’s web page, and I apologize for any errors. I guess I could have just hyper linked or cut and pasted the list, but I felt it necessary to actually type the whole thing out, so if you find any errors, that’s why.

And I’m glad I did. Putting together this list has a sobering effect. More than once I felt myself drawn to the brink of tears. The Holocaust survivor who put himself before his students, blocking the way so that they might have the chance to get to safety. The father and daughter who were inseperable except when it came to NFL football teams. A couple of times I chuckled, and a couple of times, I nearly broke down.

But that’s the point. That’s the challenge. Before you try and make the shootings about gun control, or immigration, or content of video games or television, read this list. Ask yourself if they deserve to be turned into a political football. Ask yourself if maybe they deserve better, if maybe they deserve a judicial weighing of the circumstances.

I’ve read so many pieces lately on how this could be avoided, and most of them from people who are doing little more than skimming headlines and trying to figure out how to work their own political agendas through the door. These people deserve more than that. Their friends and family deserve more than that.

They deserve a real look at the problem, and not another political feud, so please, for their sake, leave your political agendas at the door.


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