Friday, February 22, 2008

Not Another One

I know that a new episode of Best Week Ever will air tomorrow night, but I feel the need to say that they totally dropped the ball last week.

You know who had the Best Week Ever?

Ex-boyfriends who shot themselves at universities.

Yep. It's not too P.C. to say, and I can definitely see why the show wouldn't air something like that, but who are we kidding?

For those of you not acquainted, last week a jilted ex-boyfriend drove up to Seton Hall and shot himself in the stomach. Although he allegedly had no plans to shoot anyone else (guess he just wanted her to see how much he was hurting? or wanted to threaten/hurt her?), it's still a jarring news story, especially following the Northern Illinois University killings. Although this act, for all intents and purposes, had no connection with the former, it still feels like a copycat, an "oh, another one." Even fear can get played out.

And then at St. Peter's College, there was a threatening note that led to a lockdown. Students were notified via text message, a system that was also used at Seton Hall. All the stories mentioned--they basically had to, it was the giant elephant in the room--the Virginia Tech shootings, which happened 10 months ago.

Bergen Community had some nasty hate speech issues recently, too. Then again--wait--so did my alma mater in the last two years.

They also had another (!) stabbing case recently. For anyone who thinks that college is "the best years of your lives", they might need to reexamine that statement.

In fact, there's been quite a bit of violence in schools recently, although one can certainly stretch out the definition of recently. I felt pretty bad as I had forgotten about the shootings at Louisiana State Technical College. That had occurred only a week earlier.

And one of my first thoughts when seeing that listed in a chart similar to this one is that the media barely covered it. I only heard about it because it was the top story on Google News one afternoon, then it was relegated to local papers. The Seton Hall story only got press in New Jersey, same for St. Peter's College. Now, one can say that there's clearly something wrong with New Jerseyans, they've got too much hate inside of them. But, we can counter, we don't kill others in places of higher learning, we just threaten them and then beat ourselves up. Aside from that, should the media have covered this horror stories in more detail, considering that just a short time ago the biggest campus tragedy ever happened? Or should they have kept the stories to small, local press? After all, Bergen Community, St. Peter's College, and Delaware State University aren't well-known schools, and nobody needs negative press (unless you're Britney Spears); plus, does it really serve the public to keep notifying them of horrible things that are happening in faraway places?

That's what all those people say who don't read the news, who don't care what's happening overseas, who don't want to see the list of dead in Iraq.

Now clearly, threatening notes, lockdowns, and maybe even weapons possession feels very commonplace to both high school and college students, so there's no need to spread these stories. Maybe they're the equivalent to drunken driving, or other stupid, dangerous and preventable behavior that youngsters become used to hearing about. The point being that they were small stories, only big to the people in the populations that affected them. Of course, I haven't really touched on the biggest issue, which has to do with why these things are happening, why at such an increasing and alarming rate, and how to curb it. What is it a reaction against? Yes, they are all at heart personal vendettas, but the fact that these people are willing to make such huge public statements about their personal troubles says something. Maybe it all goes back to that our generation is in desperate need of some personal recognition, of some fame and notoriety, and a profile page doesn't cut it.

It might be one of the defining struggles of our age, that of safety and freedom. Social networking sites are inherently working within that framework, and it's these incidents that are only going to make the tension between the two worse.

I've been to Seton Hall--in fact, I've been in the dorm where the shooter was headed--and I remember hating the process to get into the school. Special passes needed, sign-ins every building...I couldn't go anywhere by myself because there were constant ID checks. And this was three years ago. I was so happy that I went to a school where I could drive right in, wave my ID and say howdy. Whoohoo! Although my school has stepped up security somewhat (current students could give better details), the issue is one that is still steeped in contention. I want to be able to have the freedom to just show up and hang out, left alone at parties. But when you've called three times to complain about loud neighbors, or that rock that fell through your living room window, where the hell are they?

Lots to ruminate on. Best Week Ever, I know you do pop culture and entertainment news, but this is part of our culture. Step up. It's way more important than that reality show dude who won last week.

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