What a tragic and sobering drama yesterday at Virginia Tech. My family and I are away on vacation this week, so I didn't learn of the shootings until late yesterday afternoon. Since then, I've purposefully not watched television accounts, partly because it feels somehow unseemly or gawkish, and partly to protect my children from this horrible example of man's vile potential. For similar reasons, I've also curbed my natural inclination to follow the trial of Mary Winkler, going on now in my hometown. The picture of their nine year old daughter testifying yesterday is heartrending and pitiful.
With regard to the Viginia Tech nightmare, one wonders how someone who was apparently recognized as potentially dangerous could have the opportunity to wreak harm of such magnitude. No, I don't know the details, and it's premature to draw conclusions, but major warning signs were evident. I'm curious as to what degree university officials were aware of the shooter's problems. It may be that they did everything right, and I know from my own experience that it is hard to quantify a disturbed person's risk of harming self or others, but I suspect we'll ultimately see evidence of administrative bureaucratic inaction and inertia.
Undoubtedly and unfortunately, opportunists with an agenda will attempt to capitalize on the national sense of outrage over the campus shootings to advance their efforts at gun control. How easy and naive are their proposals, how innocuous and reasonable do they sound, and how I wish life were indeed as simple as these misguided folks believe. Regrettably, the truth is that violent criminals and sociopaths will find ways to do violently criminal and sociopathic acts, and on April 16, 2007, Virginia Tech had too few guns on campus, not too many.
As horrendous as the campus murders are, it is the magnitude of the violence and the youth of the victims and the backdrop of a campus setting that transfixes the nation. The motive is sadly all too familiar. The Winkler tragedy, on the other hand, is so mesmerizing precisely because the motive is so mysterious. The Winklers could have easily been neighbors or friends of ours, and my nagging fear is that they could've been US. What went so terribly wrong in that marriage? Disturbingly, we'll never know. We grieve for Matthew and the children and the other relatives, and even for Mary, but for me personally, there is more. What led this family, so like my own in background and belief, to such an end? Are there other wives as desperate as Mary amongst our friends? Are there lessons for Mary Kaye and me to apply to our own lives? I have no answers, beyond the reinforcement that sin is real, that Satan is on the prowl, and that my marriage and my family are fragile and precious and to be treasured and protected.