As you may or may not be aware, today was the 2007 Day of Silence, "...an annual event held to bring attention to anti-LGBT bullying, harassment and discrimination in schools. Students and teachers nationwide will observe the day in silence to echo the silence that LGBT and ally students face everyday" (from the linked web site). I only knew that because as I was on the way to the first of my three back-to-back-to-back meetings today, a student handed me a flyer as I walked across the commons.
I couldn't participate because (a) I've been so bloomin' busy I didn't have time to notice the event was scheduled for today, and (b) I had three back-to-back-to-back meetings today, plus a whole lot of other conversations relevant to my job. However, I think stretching the "day of silence" metaphor might just be the best possible course of action for this country and its citizens to take in the wake of a great many highly stressful and emotionally charged events in the recent past.
I am by turns appalled and amazed at the number of lame, half-arsed, half-baked, hurtful, and just plain stupid things that have been said in the wake of the Virginia Tech shootings--and not just by the conservatives--such that I would welcome a moratorium on any further discussion of the issue, in any forum, by anyone not directly involved in investigating it or directly impacted by it. As my fellow liberal blogger Bryan has noted on several occasions, we're not going to know the full details about the wherefores and the whys behind the Virginia Tech shootings for quite a long time--if ever. Why, in the name of Holy Wisdom, would we want to start leaping to conclusions on the basis of very little evidence, and that of highly questionable provenance and credibility?
And while I didn't hear the remarks to which Virginia Governor Tim Kaine alluded when he said that he'd let his Irish temper get the best of him, I echo his disgust with groups attempting to use the shootings to advance their own political agendas. And, like Gov. Kaine, that goes for me whether the agenda is one I oppose (relaxing gun laws to allow more concealed carry permits, for example) or one which I generally favor (making gun laws tougher, or getting out of Iraq).
Hence, I think, the need for a bit more silence. I know that even the very idea of silence scares the pants off of a lot of people. And while I am probably a borderline internet and information junkie myself, I think perhaps we need to consider extending silence to include a little less obsessive surfing of the internets, allowing ourselves to turn off the notification feature on our e-mail client (or at least giving ourselves permission to ignore it when we need to). Don't get me wrong, I love the internet, and I depend on it to be able to do a great deal of what I do on a daily basis, for work and school and in my personal life (when I have one).
However, one of the drawbacks to living in the internet age, which is also the age of the 24-hour news cycle, is that we get used to a more or less constant stream of information, and a fairly quick and easy way of accessing that information, on such a tremendous breadth of topics, that we sometimes (OK, frequently) forget that there are times when the best strategy is to do nothing at all. We need to sit still for a few moments and reflect on what we already know. We need to put that into context (and, where appropriate, contention) with all of the other things we know and believe, the principles we hold dear, and do some weighing and balancing and deduction. Now most of all is not the time for us to be rushing around like the proverbial headless chickens. As I believe Friedrich von Schiller once wrote, Der Wahn ist kurz/Die Reu' ist lang, "Folly is short, but regret is long."
It's OK for us not to have all the answers RIGHTNOW! The world will not come to an end if we don't understand absolutely everything about the troubled young man who is allegedly responsible for most of the killings in Blacksburg, or why he did what he did, or why the police responded as they did. A little suspense, a bit of dubiety, especially if coupled with a time to let our thoughts ramble, our minds wander, and especially to reflect upon what lessons we might learn from this horrific tragedy, will not only not kill us, they will quite likely make us stronger, and the decisions we do make, if and when we make them, will likely be of considerably better quality.
Any legislation we pass, any regulations we issue, any policies we change, when we are still brimful of the mix of hormones that fright and terror and anger send coursing through our veins, are virtually guaranteed to be sub-optimal. (See, e.g., USA PATRIOT Act.) It's also important to determine--preferably ahead of time--whether we are willing to be ruled by our animalistic limbic systems ("Bad! Kill! Cast out with bell, book, and candle!") or whether we would rather try to live up to the name we have adopted for ourselves, that of the reality-based community.
So let us admit our ignorance, confess our failures, acknowledge our senses of failure and our quasi-neurotic need to be perfect little automata who never, ever, put a foot wrong or make a wrong decision. Because if we can bring ourselves to perform that one little act of self-abnegation, we just might have a shot at actually not making a wrong decision about how to respond to this tragedy, and that would be one wrong thing we would later not have to repent of having done.