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From: The Socialist issue 484, 26 April 2007: Blair's legacy: war, cuts and privatisation

Search site for keywords: shooting - US - Socialist Alternative

US mass shooting horror

THE SHOOTING at Virginia Tech, the worst mass shooting in modern US history, shocked people in the US and around the world. 32 people and the killer died in this massacre. Socialists condemn such needless taking of human life.

Katie Quarles, Socialist Alternative, Minneapolis, USA

While the media highlighted the brutality, loss of life, and the tragedy for the families of the 33 dead, hundreds more civilians were killed in Iraq. Deaths in Baghdad though are treated as no more than numbers in the mainstream media. The victims at Virginia Tech are shown as people. Their names, pictures and in some cases, life stories are listed across the country and around the world.

From New Mexico to South Korea, tens if not hundreds of thousands of people participated in vigils and moments of silence for the victims of the Virginia Tech shooting, to express their genuine grief.

This stands in contrast to Bush and other politicians. While they stood in front of cameras offering condolences and condemning this violent incident, some wearing Virginia Tech's orange and maroon school colours, they continued to spend hundreds of billions of dollars on the war in Iraq. While they condemn the horror of this tragedy, over 40 million US people live without health insurance and 13% of the US population live below the poverty line.

Why did this mass murder happen? Is it the prevalence of guns in US society? The decline of traditional morals? Maybe it is the violent video games?

In a study of mass murder in the 20th century, Minnesota criminologist Grant Duwe, found that mass murder in the US is not a new phenomenon. It has not just appeared since the invention of violent video games and does not seem to be tied just to the prevalence of guns.

He found that mass murder was as common during the 1920s and early 1930s as it is today. In the 1940s and 1950s incidences decreased, only to increase again since the 1960s.

The times when mass murder and homicide occur most often corresponds to periods of economic instability, when there is widespread uncertainty about the future and in many cases a feeling of hopelessness like during the 1930s Great Depression.

While economic concerns may not be the main motivating factors in the minds of the shooters, they create an environment in society of rawness and hopelessness.

In this context the hypocrisy of Bush and Co becomes clear. They continue to fund the war, yet claim not to have enough money to fund social programmes that could help give people economic security and create programmes for youth, to involve them in social activities and give job skills training.

If poverty, mass unemployment and uncertainty about the future lay the ground for these killings, then eliminating them seems the way to prevent such tragedies in the future.

In a socialist society where no-one would have to worry about unemployment or have to decide between paying for an expensive medication or buying food, where social programmes would be well funded and psychiatric services easily available, the sense of insecurity that so many people feel and the rawness of society could be eliminated, thus preventing these kinds of tragedies.

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Article dated 26 April 2007

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