I got upset at dinner tonight when Simon and Brandi got into a discussion about gun control. (I'd stupidly brought up the topic of the Va. Tech shootings because I was offering an explanation for my stress-level.) I didn't want to talk about idealistic Britishisms: yes, you have gun control laws, and yes, you are better than us.
To me, the real issue is one of recognizing and dealing with mental illness.
We recognize mental illness in the US in two forms: either you have it in a bouncy Zoloft-commercial kind of way, or you are crazy in a Columbine sense. There's no nuance, there's no real acknowledgment of the complex issues that contribute to mental illness, or to a humane and appropriate way to address it. It's why my grandfather struggled. It's why suicide is seen as a sin. It's why UNO cops out and says that there's "no way to prevent" what happened. That may, in fact, be true.
But listen to the following, which comes from the AOL post of Ian MacFarlane, a classmate of Seung Hui Cho (I figured out the real order of his name via a document found on the surprisingly-helpful Wikipedia, which I usually warn my students away from... go figure. His last name is Cho.):
'While I "knew" Cho, I always wished there was something I could do for him, but I couldn't think of anything. As far as notifying authorities, there isn't (to my knowledge) any system set up that lets people say "Hey! This guy has some issues! Maybe you should look into this guy!" If there were, I definitely would have tried to get the kid some help. I think that could have had a good chance of averting yesterday's tragedy more than anything.'
I don't know what the right "system" would be, but I think that an attempt to at least articulate one should have occurred by now. The general public simply needs to be more sensitive to mental illness and aware of what can be done, period.
I would really like to track the number of times administrators claim there was "nothing they could do." It sounds an awful lot to me like the Army Corps of Engineers claiming that their crap-ass levees "couldn't stand up" to Hurricane Katrina. No, these levees couldn't. But other ones could have. Should have.