Tuesday, April 17, 2007

Reflection on Yesterday's Events

I'm sure someone will lose their job for saying this on one of the countless Cable TV talk shows, and in no way do I mean to minimize the lives (and deaths) of the students and faculty at VTU, but I wonder if people may take from this some lesson: what America felt today is what people in Iraq and other war torn countries feel every day. Colleges get bombed in Baghdad and Sadr City, killing hundreds of people, and we hear reports of this sort on the news, "Two U.S. soldiers were killed today in a bombing that killed hundreds of Iraqis." Why is it that we do not grieve for these people as much as we will for the people in Virginia? The death toll of Iraqi civilians is somewhere in the 60,000's.

In the same way that we as a nation recognized (and soon after forgot) our great racial and social inequalities in the aftermath of Katrina, surely any public reflection of this sort on yesterday's will soon fade away with the crowning of the next "American Idle" or Bush Administration scandal. In October '05, we saw video of people dying in the streets of New Orleans, and it reminded us of two things. We saw that work that needed to be done to make sure we are all protected in the same ways; we are all equal but some remained far more equal than others. Yet we also recognized how lucky we were to live in America, where this sort of thing is a "disaster" and not a regular occurrence. It is with the same outlook that we should look at the shooting that occurred yesterday.
I just watched "The Weather Underground" in my American History class and perhaps that is serving as the function of my thoughts on these issues. Of course, it seems like the crazed gunman who killed the thirty-three innocent people in Blacksburg was simply acting violently in the response to a fight with his girlfriend (this is what I have read); so he was not "bringing the war home" as the Weathermen claimed to do in response to the atrocities committed in Vietnam. But can one be blamed for connecting the two?

After some personal reflection, I have written this post, and also made myself a commitment. The next time I read an article about a civilian death in Iraq (whether it be at a college or in a market place), I will force myself to think about the fear, terror and anguish that I (and millions of Americans) felt today, and will feel in the following days and weeks. The lightness of murder should not be felt simply because it is being committed (by either side, mind you) across the ocean. We must all take responsibility for the deaths of civilians and troops in Iraq. History teaches us to learn from events so that we can better ourselves for the future (at least that is what I have been told). If yesterday did not serve as a wake-up call, then I do not know what will.

The death toll of Iraqi civilians since our invasion in 2003 could be as high as 650,000 (as of October 2006). Is it going to take 20,000 Virginia Techs for us as a country to see the horror of our actions overseas?

The flag on the Trinity College Quad is at half-staff today (and well it should be), but where are those flags for the 600,000 Iraqis?


obamarama said...

I listed the death toll at first 60,000 for Iraqi civillians, and later I say 600,000. The latter number is the correct one. It was a typo.

Koko the Clown said...

Thanks for this, Obamarama. The death toll for civilians in Iraq is not easy to quantify directly, though there are some indications it may be as high as 650,000 - though most of these folks were not murdered directly, but killed by bombs or by the lack of electricity or water. In any case, the estimate put forth by the Iraqi government that tens of thousands of Iraqis killed in violent deaths is probably low.

See this op-ed by the epidemiologist Les Roberts, who has studied Iraqi deaths:

Koko the Clown said...

the end of that web address is

obamarama said...

In case anyone missed this: over 170 died today in Baghdad ( over 200 nationwide).