Friday, April 20, 2007

The Nation: Story Lines at Virginia Tech

Story Lines at Virginia Tech - commentary by Bruce Shapiro at "'It is an inconceivable number,' the Roanoke TV anchor was saying Monday afternoon. 'Thirty-three lives.' As facts about Cho Seung-Hui emerge, we are all trying to make that number conceivable, sifting his playscripts, psychiatric referrals, stalking complaints and gun purchases for clues to his bizarre shooting rampage at Virginia Tech.

It will take time before anyone can say with certainty how Cho managed to get away with such a massacre. Independent law-enforcement professionals will evaluate Virginia Tech's response and the tragically wrongheaded misreading of Cho's initial shootings, which allowed him to roam campus without pursuit for two hours. University administrators around the country will doubtless ponder whether adequate mental-health services reach their most dangerously troubled students.

But in a sense the important thing now is how the story gets told and understood. The profoundly human yearning to impose a narrative line on chaotic tragedy leaves the meaning of an event like Virginia Tech up for grabs. Whether it is 'impossible to make sense of such violence and suffering' (as President Bush told the VT convocation) is a question with deep consequences, open equally to dangerous political exploitation and to just as dangerous fatalism about prevention and accountability."


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