We Are Virginia Tech

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I forgot to include this speech by Nikki Giovanni at last week's Virginia Tech Memorial Service in yesterday's post.

Her talk is moving. She effectively contexts this tragedy with all the other tragedies being experienced even now, this moment, by families and communities around the world. A friend last night reflected on his own reaction to the event, his surprise at the depth of shock and surprise so many feel. And indeed, the shock is deep. That we - Americans - can be so stunned by senseless violence illustrates how insulated we are from the indescribable acts violence occurring regularly around the globe, sometimes even in our name.

While I don't think any one person could have done the magic thing that would have stopped Cho, I do think his actions give us an opportunity to reflect on the way our social system operates. His action occurs in a context - and I don't mean the immediate environment of the English Department at Virginia Tech, indeed, their efforts seem laudable. I do not know what else, what more, the faculty and students who knew Cho could have done. When I say "context", I mean the larger, macrosocial forces that establish such incredible stakes for survival, such extreme differences in access to goods and pleasure, and the constant pressure of figuring out where one will fit in the economic machine and be the least grinded by it.

As long as our system is as ruthless as it (and the current form of capitalism is as heartless as a system can be), it will inevitably bring pressure on particular individuals who will crack. Cho was not just an extremely unhappy and distressed individual; he is the blatant and incontrovertible evidence of the "hidden" costs of neoliberal capitalism.

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