Wednesday, April 18

Monday Morning, April 16th

This post is mostly for myself, a reminder when I look back of what I was really trying to capture on this blog. I'm certain that all of you have either heard about, if not seen, the news about the Virginia Tech campus shootings earlier this week. Inna Lillahe wa inna Ilayhe raaji`oon (Indeed we are from Allah and indeed to Him is our return).

As a college student, this event has a kind of reality that I can't really describe. It was one thing after September 11th to be a Muslim girl wearing some kind of sign that says "Blame The Men That Make Me Dress This Way" or "Ask About Our Terrorists" that just became more complicated as the years, the wars, the incidents, and the legislations pass. But fear is something strange. As of last fall, there are over 50,000 students here on the Twin-Cities campus. I live in Dinkytown, which isn't really known for it's safe and warm afterhours. Despite hearing about someone getting shot while sitting in their car on campus a few months ago, watching a group of guys smashing another guy into the side wall of Duffy's Pizza around 3am a few weeks ago from my bedroom window, and learning to sleep with police and fire truck sirens going off throughout the night, I've never really felt scared living out in Minneapolis.

Around noon on Monday, as I turned on CNN to accompany my Froot Loops, wAllahi, I was so shocked. The ticker wasn't really clear about what they were covering..Just "Breaking News: Gunmen on Virginia Tech campus" and a rising toll of casualties...Two deaths and 23 injuries...And as the day went on, somehow, we were at 32 deaths and nearly as many wounded, the gunman also "deceased." What the heck. Where did this come from? Who goes to college to kill people?

College students have crazy stressors going through their minds every day. We worry about deadlines, missed discussions, our friends, our almost friends, our not friends anymore's, our parents, bank balances, ways to defer our loans, going to part-time jobs that don't pay us enough, a stagnant democracy that writes us off as uninterested anyway, global warming, marriage, world hunger, and sanity itself. Why is a crazy person with a gun on any campus?

The victims of the VT tragedy are no different than ourselves, and they lived uptil those moments just like we continue to live out here today. The tsunami was on the other side of the world, terrorists are bearded men, wars are in the Middle East, hurricanes are in the South, and earthquakes are in California social studies books. I think that's the impression under which many of us subconsciously operate, at least to some extent. But an incident like this is just surreal, because there is no apparent reason why it had to be their campus and not mine. The mere thought is chilling. I guess the underlying assumption is that tsunamis will always hit the other shores of the Pacific, terrorists will always (in our lifetimes) be bearded men, wars will always be in the Middle East, hurricanes will continue to destroy the South in alphabetical order, and earthquakes will only happen in California in the 90's. Of course all of this blatantly exudes ignorance, but many people live their lives with these beliefs. And all of a sudden, we have something that scares millions of students, faculty, and families in every part of the nation. A sudden thought occurs to us now, "It could happen to me."

I walked home with a classmate from my Monday nightclass. We talked about what was going on. She looked at me while we stopped for traffic at an intersection. She's an international student...I'm not sure which Korea she's from, but we had just discovered last week that we were both the same year, major, minor, lived in the same building, and in two of the same classes this semester. Waiting for the walk sign, she said in the saddest tone, "They're saying that the gunman is Asian."

It was a strange moment for me, personally, because it was like she looked at me as having some kind of insight or experience with "these sorts of things" that I could draw upon to advise her. I said that it would be sad if people did go about all of this seeing it any way other than that it was a strange, tragic incident. But an incident--not the beginning or end of something else.

A couple more things I want to document for this post...

I called my parents after I had gotten home. My dad and I were mostly relieved to remember that my cousin just left VT this past fall. Subhan Allah--the kid was finishing his Masters in some area of engineering, and I guess things weren't going in the direction he needed so he went back to Bangladesh. Al Hamdulillah. Abbu also brought up concerns regarding the exponentially growing financial burdens college students get tangled in every year, and that this incident is a reflection not of some psychotic kid's anger or insanity but rather of the state of our nation and society. I then talked to my mom, who was very firm in telling me to not watch the coverage of this tragedy as details surface because it's things like this that can crawl under our skins and can become traumatic. In middle-of-nowhere Rapid City, my family and I had turned to each other when it came to understanding and reacting to the World Trade Center bombings, the international, national, and local reactions to them, the launch of the "War on Terrorism" in Afghanistan, ethnically profiled detainments and unwarranted imprisonment at Guantanamo, the escalation to the War on Iraq, etc. We watched everyone around us understand how exactly "unconstitutional" was "justified." Watching tv killed us everyday, in our sleep and in our waking, because we had no coping mechanism for a stimulus that we couldn't believe was making itself a part of our reality over and over. And it wasn't that we had to watch reality, but that reality watched us, closer than we are yet to become comfortable with, embodied by eyes, words, opinions, and articles by neighbors, classmates, fellow shoppers at our grocery stores. Ours is one of few non-WASP families in West-River South Dakota. As much as I appreciate the quietude of life in the Black Hills, going back to be with my family over breaks or summers still has this inescapable feeling of suffocation to me. But I guess that's just part of "being home."

As details about the lives that were led by the victims and the killer come to light, I wonder what other people are thinking. On YouTube, the most upsetting clip I found was this ignorant guy who had the audacity to say that if students and teachers were allowed to carry weapons, this sort of incident could have been prevented. How dumb do you have to be to argue that we need more weapons on campus after someone just shot all these innocent people with guns? If anything, we should be looking at the ridiculously obvious fact that wherever someone has been shot, a gun was involved. I suppose 2nd Amendment supporters would point out that in such cases, a "gunman" was also involved, and that we therefore need to educate people or something like that. Sadly, this argument could go on indefinitely. The solution, however, can certainly not be that we selectively don't sell weapons to 20-year-old Asians, African Americans, Latinos, and beardy turban men...God I hope humanity evolves, mutates, or just wakes up to the fact that our desires, our lusts for power, have irreversible consequences.


Adam samad said...

These incidents are sad but I don’t see them ever going away. I think we’ll have at least one “columbine” every 3-5 years. I’m actually surprised there aren’t more. How will we ever be able to monitor or treat people with mental illnesses like this? The signs were all there but kids who become inward and “injustice collectors” can spark at any moment. This incident will ignite another debate about gun control but that will just die down as time goes on. I think the government is waiting for a massacre of 9/11 proportions in order to take immediate action. It’s weird how I get these heroic feelings that build up and wish I could have been the one who could have stopped this from ever occurring. We should take these occurrences and think about how we treat people that we run across everyday. Maybe we should just walk over to a stranger and say hi for the sake of caring. There is no full proof method but if we all say a few “hi’s” to people who need to hear them, it might make there day a little sunnier.

Samira said...

You're right. For how fragile human beings are, it's scary to consider how careless we are with each other. Subhan Allah, I hope a tragedy like this doesn't happen often enough to become a predictable occurence. There are too many illnesses, too many accidents, for us to deal with murder and massacre.

I wasn't really gonna talk about gun control in reaction to this incident, but as I read what people around the world are clearly seeing, it would be foolish to pretend to not see the elephant in the room. The actions chosen by this individual don't reflect on Koreans or Asians or Asian Americans or youth or college students, but rather this entire nation. Something is wrong with our priorities, and Columbine, and now, Virginia Tech, attest to its reality. Congress flatly refuses to reconsider its blatant alliance with the NRA. We are the company we keep, right?

Take a look at Fineman's article in Newsweek.