Those troubled souls in our path are reminders; we are our brother's keeper.
In the Old Testament, Genesis 4 : 9 we read "The Lord asked Cain, 'Where is your brother Abel?' 'I do not know,' Cain answered. 'Am I my brother's keeper?'"
The terrible tragedy this week in Virginia pits the privacy of the individual against society's right to enjoy public safety. A troubled young man had been identified to University and local law enforcement authorities. The University's hands were tied because federal law prohibited them from notifying the young man's parents. Since he was not deemed an "imminent threat" to himself or others, he was allowed to leave the mental health facility he had been sent to.
The faculty members and administrators at Virginia Tech did everything that was possible under the law. The legal and/or administrative tools needed to prevent this horror do not currently exist. Here was an individual whose manner was not only eccentric but also displayed disturbed fantasies of murder and deviant behavior.
He did not only shun, but rejected social contact. The technology of the current era fosters this alienation with an individual having a global reach from a closeted room. Entertainment in the form games that reward savage viciousness are now just a part of the adolescent landscape.
It has come to light that the shooter in this case had been one of 'those' outsider kids in high school. Coming to the United States at ten years old, from an immigrant family and raised in an insular ethnic community.
Isolation, and alienation leads to loneliness, introspection, suspicion and rage. This extreme case should compel all Americans to recognize the need for community and proactive action for these souls we each encounter in our path. Ralph Waldo Emerson wrote "... to leave the world a bit better, whether by a healthy child, a garden patch, or a redeemed social condition...to know that even one life has breathed easier because you have lived - this is to have succeeded."
Emerson also wrote "The greatest gift is a portion of thyself." We don't need a social program from the Federal Government to reach a person sitting across the room.
If in fact this young man's isolation began in public school, it is not a school system, faculty, or administration problem. The problem is in our collective idea that the socially isolated or awkward are nerds, are to be shunned, teased and bullied. The violence by alienated, disaffected young people has led to awareness in the public schools that bullying can no longer be pooh poohed by adults as just part of growing up.
This tragic incident shows us that we are still vulnerable to the rage of the disaffected. A solution that is consistent with the individual's right to privacy and society's right to security must develop to quell what will only be a growing trend. That with the moral imperative that we each must carry to be indeed our brother's keeper may join to lead us away from isolation and violence to community and brotherhood.
Editor's Note: I'd like to welcome Roger MacDonald back to the Magic City Morning Star. Roger was, I think, our first columnist from outside of the Katahdin region of Maine, and we're pleased to have him back. -- Ken Anderson