What Was Your Kneejerk Reaction?

After thinking about my own this morning, and reading different ones elsewhere, I’m wondering what your kneejerk reactions to news of the shooting were.

This might not work out so well, since I hardly have any readers, but if you immediately thought, “Oh, it must be ______” or “This clearly means ______” when you heard, please leave a comment telling me what goes in the blank.

I’m allowing anonymous comments for the time being, so you don’t have to tell me who you are.

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11 thoughts on “What Was Your Kneejerk Reaction?

  1. I immediately thought what, as it happens, were the same two things the previous commenter said: abused kid lost his turnip and went nuts.

  2. I hate to say my knee-jerk was mental illness, when I’ve spent so much time trying to dispel its myths & stigmas. Still, it is the only reason I can parcel out (i.e. “who in their right mind?” etc).

  3. Also, I’ve watched a psycotic break unfold, of course not nearly as violently as at VT, but the sudden snap feels so terrifyingly, tangibly real to me.

  4. Yeah, I actually watched a relatively benign (in terms of being totally nonviolent) break unfold years ago, and I hear you (though of course the one I watched didn’t affect me as deeply). And the unsettling part was, it took as all about 48 hours to get from “Hey, why’s he being weirder than usual?” to “Dude, he needs HELP.” (I might have made out with him during that time. Ahem.)

    Fortunately, that wasn’t someone likely to become violent, but once he was checked into a hospital and diagnosed, it was like, “Ohhhhh. Yeah, now that you mention it…” In retrospect, it was so obvious from the beginning, but it is SO hard to crack that denial–there’s nothing really wrong with him! I know him!–as it progresses incrementally. I can’t even imagine how it would feel to inventory all the red flags you missed after someone becomes violent.

  5. “Yet I still can’t shake the urge to rant about how frighteningly many men in this culture respond to romantic rejection by killing people, as if that’s the only real issue here, and everything else is a distraction.”

    That? Was my first response. I thought of the guy who stalked me in college, who did many scary things but did not turn violent, and how incredibly well my campus police handled it when he showed up outside my window at 11 PM, having driven two hours after being told not to call me anymore.

    Virginia Tech’s men-in-charge, in handling this situation, act as if it has never occurred to them that a man might take a romantic rejection and spin it into a massacre. My women’s college, on the other hand, never forgot that very real possibility. They made every decision regarding my safety with careful deliberation and awareness. They didn’t make excuses or pretend there isn’t a large-scale problem in the way people are taught to deal with rejection, the way men are taught that it’s okay, even romantic, to control women. My college knew. Why didn’t Va. Tech?

  6. As you know, my first thought was, “Don’t tell me it’s another one of these where it’s about a girl.”

    However, I will say that I didn’t think so much of school shootings when I thought that, as other shooting incidents where a man first killed his wife/girlfriend/mother and other family members, then went out on a killing spree, usually to his school or workplace. It was the initial shots being fired in the dorm that twigged my Misogyny Radar.

    It reminds me of something I heard back during the dissection of Columbine, that suicidal ideation in a woman is solitary, suicidal ideation in a man can and frequently does include homicide. Hence the number of abusive romantic relationships that culminate in murder-suicide, which is what the VT administration originally assumed had happened.

    And frankly, that’s the part that strikes me as most misogynistic – that our culture makes it, while not “okay” certainly “understandable” that when a man is bereft and in despair, he will not suicide alone, he will take the one(s) he purports to love with him. It strikes me as frighteningly analogous to things like the pharoahs of ancient Egypt having their household staffs killed in order to accompany them on the journey to the afterlife. The message, in short is, “You are mine, and if I can’t continue living, neither can you.”

  7. “Oh, it must be hell to be campus police today”

    “This clearly means the talking heads will make bad assumptions about how easy it is to shut down a community the size of a small city. They will make broad assumptions about the killings and the killer. They will ignore the fact that these students are in shock and interview as many as they can in an attempt to feed the machine. And never will they make any connection to the number of young people killed in foreign wars on a daily basis and how their parents/friends/lovers feel about it.”

    But then again, I am on a campus every day, and in a job where we know this could happen any time, not improbably starting with my desk, so I’m both closer and more distant thant lots of folks.

  8. I thought, I bet he is a domestic violence case gone even more crazy.. and then the media in Australia mentioned the “stalking women” issue briefly before it got much more excited about the “hates rich kids” motive… to which I kept thinking, but what about the “hates women” bit?

  9. Jane’s mom: sounds like you went to one of them gynoversities. (I find that article too funny to be outraged by it, but only just.)

    Thorn, I hear you. That desire to take people out with you is something that utterly baffles me. My gut says it has to do with a culture of entitlement, but it’s hard to be sure. There may or may not be a post on that here in the future.

    Reba, great perspective. If you haven’t seen Michael Berube’s post at Pandagon today, you should check it out.

    Bluemilk, yep. What about the “hates women” bit, indeed.

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