I am rarely at a loss for words. But now, as I approach this column after a week of tragedy – both at Miami University and nationwide – I can hardly form a rational thought. Somehow a 500-word column needs to be written on a topic that I cannot find one suitable word for.
I don’t need to recall the events of Saturday night at Miami, or Monday afternoon at Virginia Polytechnic Institute. Nothing that I say can express the individual grief, confusion and frustration that we feel. Like you, I’ve been watching the news and discussing it in class. Sometimes the facts are accurate. Sometimes they’re just pieces of rumor that patch together some semblance of truth. I guess when you’re desperate for answers, almost anything helps.
But as I’m flipping through the channels of repeated footage, I’m shocked to hear how quickly the actual disaster has been swept aside. The news is flooded with debate about Virginia gun sales and the failure of campus crisis communication. Somehow CNN and ABC find it appropriate to spark these debates right now. Gun control. University communication policy. The horror of this tragedy cannot be simplified into a policy debate. Not yet, anyways. This is about people. People were murdered, first and foremost. The aftermath should be filled with reverence and condolences for the victims. The focus should be for the families left behind, the campus that will be shaken forever and the lives that were taken.
We have to let ourselves grieve. We have to take time to hurt, to sympathize, to feel, to pray. This isn’t a time to blame. Yes, there will be a time to discuss methods of prevention. That time is not now.
It is simply disrespectful to ignite any heated policy debate that supersedes the mourning for the lost lives. Of course, it’s natural to seek blame and explanation when such an event happens. So, yes, we can point fingers. We can assume things about the school, the policies, the killer, the situation at-large. It’s a natural reaction to assign blame at a time like this. But assigning blame won’t bring those students and faculty back.
Like I said, I’m at a loss for eloquent words that can articulate the disaster. Words alone will not solve the confusion, they won’t mend the grief. I’m at a loss for words, but I’m not at a loss for feeling. And perhaps that’s all we can do for now. We can feel. We have to let ourselves grieve. This isn’t a time to blame the state of Virginia for gun control policies. This isn’t a time to question the administrative communication of the university. We will have months, maybe years, ahead for that. This tragedy isn’t about policy. It’s about lives. And for now, the respect for those who died and the sympathy for the families left behind should be the forefront of our concern.