Youth, Interrupted

Youth, Interrupted


Somewhere I was listening to an interview with a witness of the Kent State massacre in 1970. The horror of the campus killings 37 years ago were compared to events at Virginia Tech.

Hearing about Kent State reminded me how that massacre helped to forge a generation. So too will Virginia Tech, though quite differently.

Kent State was a tragedy that was the result of two sides facing off over the war in Vietnam. One side was protesting the seemingly endless and expanding conflict in Indochina; the other side was called in to maintain civil order. Guns went off, and four people lay dead. The young generation just emerging from the 1960s rallied around this event. The antiwar cause was buttressed. Their deaths, while tragic, were at least casualties in a battle of ideas.

But what of today’s young generation? The Virginia Tech massacre seems prophetic for them. Nine times the number died at Virginia Tech than did at Kent. What cause did these young people die for?

None at all. They died because a lunatic got his hands on some very effective killing technology. The press looks for meaning, and answers. They’ll never be found. Because they’re not there.

Today’s young generation must contend with mass death at the hands of anonymous people, with anonymous causes. Certainly, murder sprees are not unique to today’s young generation. But situational catastrophe seems to have taken on a life of its own in the past 10 years. In terms of age, it’s possible that some of the kids who were shot at by Cho Seung-Hui might have dodged bullets of similar intent at Columbine High School in 1999. This is a generation that has become accustomed to being distracted, influenced, and sometimes killed en masse by random occurrence without a coherent purpose.

Some of these kids are in school, others among them are in Iraq and Afghanistan. There too, they must contend with anonymous, random violence. International Jihad does indeed represent a cause, albeit incoherent much of the time. But each act of violence in the name of Jihad seems arbitrary, and murderous.

What must today’s young people make of the world they must engage? What are their expectations, as a generation? Media has pounded them all their lives about how the world is dangerous; it’s full of child molesters, murderers, disease and vice. They’re a generation raised with interior childhoods, safe from what lurks outside, but free to observe it on a screen. All their worldly needs could be met in homes and safe places. Childhood became a crafted vocation.

Virginia Tech was the slaughter of the lambs by one of their tormented own. While their lives had purpose and meaning, their deaths had none. That’s the despicable truth. Where Kent defined the older generation’s opposition to war, Virginia Tech defines only an rising tide of random atrocity without end.

Wish them well.

  • Hamilton

    Unfortunately, when school shootings garner massive media coverage, there are often inspired copycats in the months that follow. It is like the aftershocks that follow an earthquake.

    The internet, television, newspapers… I’m sure TIME magazine will have a black-framed ‘special report’ this Friday.

    Other disgruntled, violent youth with no empathy for other human beings will seek out that kind of lionizing and platform. In an age of instant fame… you also have instant infamy.

  • Abu Nudnik

    How do you know there’s no meaning?

    In fact, you yourself have invented one: the availability of guns. So what your really mean is that there can be no possible meaning but yours. Very liberal!

    Maybe you should study the story a bit more.

  • Alan Stewart Carl

    Wouldn’t the University of Texas shooting in 1966 be a much better comparison? Comapring Kent State to Virginia Tech seems unfair to both generations.

  • probligo

    I agree with ASC.

    Kent State was the older, pro-state, pro-intervention, anti-communist portion of society trying to prevent expression of opposition to the Vietnam War, the intervention, the state. To that extent Kent represented the imposition of (one of the last) governmental authority, as well as an inter-generational conflict.

    My feelings on the American gun culture are well known. I have no need to debate that topic again. There is no joy in watching the debate unfold yet again through the news and the blogiverse.

  • BenG

    Guys, chill out !
    First of all, he didn’t compare anything, he said he was simply reminded of how Kent St. helped forge a generation, and actually made a point of saying how they were so different, as is all to obvious. He didn’t make an issue of “availability of guns”, none that I could see, so, Abu Nundik, WTF, I have no idea what your point is. Who’s being ‘very liberal’, and what did the post say about handguns that could possibly piss anyone off? That,”he was a lunatic who got his hands on some very effective killing technology”

  • Hamilton

    Virginia Tech forbids the possession of firearms on campus. They call the campus a gun-free “safe zone.â€Â? I guess Mr. Seung-hui didn’t get the memo! Obviously this VT rule didn’t stop a single death from taking place on that fateful date.