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Bad News in the News: WHY We Should Care

The April 16th, 2007, event that is being called “The Massacre at Virginia Tech” exposed one more time the degree of devastation one person can create if they are willing to surrender their own life. Words fall pitifully short of explaining it to ourselves, let alone to our children.

“How do we protect our children from the ugly side of human behavior,” someone said to me in recent email. I wish I had an easy answer. I don’t.

This past week I was asked a question that reached to the other side of the issue. I was speaking in Richmond, Virginia, when a high-school teacher approached me during a break.

“I can understand the need to soothe and support students who are traumatically affected by the news of what happened over in the western part of our state,” she shared, “but yesterday I had just the opposite problem. Several of my students said the shootings didn’t bother them at all because they didn’t know any of the victims. How would you respond to a situation like that?”

She studied my face for a answer.

(It is possible, of course, for youngsters to say they aren’t bothered when they are actually bothered a great deal. It’s a defense that buys time to emotionally process events like this one. This might or might not be the case here.)

I suggested she have her students read and discuss John Donne’s short but poignant piece, “No Man is an Island.” It speaks to how we are all interconnected, and how that which affects one ultimately affects all.

“No Man is an Island”

No man is an island entire of itself; every man is a piece of the continent, a part of the main; if a clod be washed away by the sea, Europe is the less, as well as if a promontory were, as well as any manner of thy friends or of thine own were; any man’s death diminishes me, because I am involved in mankind.

And therefore never send to know for whom the bell tolls; it tolls for thee.


 I then thought of another way to explain why we should care. A few years back a young man committed a terrible crime. He killed all the cats belonging to an elderly neighbor woman. As I recall, he made his point more dramatic by piling a dozen or so of their dead bodies in her basement.

The case went to court. The attorney for the boy attempted to minimize the youngster’s actions by explaining the victims were cats–not people.

The judge came in with a tough sentence. “Yes, counselor,” he said to the boy’s lawyer, “I do understand these victims were cats, not people, but you and your client must realize there is a deeper issue here. He committed a crime against decency itself. THAT’S the reason for this sentence.”

That stuck with me. What happened on the campus at Virginia Tech last week was, in addition to everything else, a monumental crime against decency.

Isn’t that reason enough to care?


James Sutton, Psychologist





April 24, 2007 - Posted by | Counselors, Educators, family, Inspirational, Parents

1 Comment »

  1. Doc,
    Very well written. This should be required reading for all. I love how you used these two examples. It would serve us all well to read “No Man Is An Island”. I think we would be amazed by how many high school students are barely aware of what happened at Virgina Tech.


    Comment by tobeme | April 26, 2007 | Reply

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