Monday, April 23, 2007

What have we learned in a week?

Thinking back on the Virginia Tech atrocities of Monday a week ago is sort of surreal. I had an uneasy feeling in my stomach that day, once it hit me that so many people were dead on a college campus.

Today, I know it's still sad, but it's a different feeling. I know most of us tend to get used to living with something uncomfortable given enough time. That seems to be one of the ideas expressed in a memorial service in Blacksburg today.

We've all taken a lot in during the past week. We learned the name of the young man authorities say is behind the deadly shootings: Seung-Hui Cho. We've learned he was angry, if not disturbed. We've learned authorities in the area may not have been prepared for such a tragedy.

Part of me wonders if what we -- that would be the media -- do is what makes the stronger emotions we feel eventually give way to indifference. Not too many of us are talking about it anymore. Even my friends who live throughout the country, those I may only talk to once a week, weren't talking about it by this past Friday or Saturday. The day it happened we were sending shocked text messages to one another.

So I started trying to remember what really hit me when I realized what was happening up there.

I remembered signing on to AOL and seeing a headline that said something to the effect of "More than 20 die..." I immediately thought, "Oh, there was a car bomb in Iraq," and I almost clicked the next arrow to find the following news item.

Then I realized this was in the United States. And then I felt guilty for apparently feeling jaded about massacres elsewhere. Would I feel like that if there was less coverage?

Even if the answer is yes, I can't encourage that idea. I was sympathetic when I read that Virginia Tech student government asked the media to stay away from campus once their electorate got back in class.

But discussing this less, whatever form the dialogue takes, can't be the answer. I know readers/viewers/media consumers get tired of doom and gloom, but the point of covering this is to strike a chord of humanity somewhere inside us.

Maybe instead of just glancing at the headlines and passing them off as typical, we should examine ourselves. What are we doing to help?

And I'm not going to just put this off on people who read. We writers need to think about what we're doing, too. How is what we put out there really affecting the world? Could we do a better job?

I hope we all can.

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