27 February 2012

Amoklauf in Ohio: Feb. 27, 2012

The sad thing about today's news from Chardon OH is that I can't help but think of it as a "minor" incident because it appears that no one was killed and only five kids were shot by a fellow student. Except for the maniacs who keep track of the records and see them as benchmarks to surpass someday, we should measure any amoklauf qualitatively rather than quantitatively. The terror felt by those kids in the cafeteria should be no less in retrospect should it turn out that none of them died. If anything, the nation as a whole isn't terrified enough of these events to take the steps necessary to minimize the damage a sick or angry kid can do. Americans seem stuck somewhere between fatalism and self-delusion on this issue, either believing that it can't happen in my town or that nothing can prevent it from happening anywhere. The ideal solution for too many people seems to be arming more "good" people so any amoklaufer can be gunned down early. For them, the gun is the only answer to the gun, and someone is always right to kill. The problem with that attitude is that you can't guarantee that everyone who agrees with you should agree. The entitlement to kill that comes with a constitutionally guaranteed individual right to self-defense, as currently understood by the majority of the Supreme Court, unfortunately empowers those whose imperative to self-defense is often comprehensible only to themselves. The line dividing objective self-defense from subjective lashing out may become clear in a courtroom but grows fuzzy in our individualistic culture. Some will say that's why we need more morality, but they stake much on mere exhortation when it should be a practical matter to make it more difficult for people to kill. They would rather risk an amoklauf, which they can then deplore as illegitimate killing, than limit their own right to kill, since they'd only do it for legitimate reasons -- like stopping an amoklauf, for instance. But maybe a better world is impossible, and maybe then the best option in our egalitarian society is for the state to arm every citizen so each can defend himself as he (or she) sees fit. Would there be more justice, or more amoklaufs -- and who would know the difference?

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