Tuesday, April 17, 2007

Virginia Tech Event Incomprehensible

I was determined not to write anything related to yesterday's shooting. But I found a time line of school violence in North America--the United States and Canada from the London Free Press in Ontario. Michael Moore's Bowling for Columbine suggested that such violence was unique to the United States, but this long list demonstrates otherwise.

In fact, youth violence is a global problem.
3/27/07 France: Youth violence throws major Paris train station into chaos
4/10/07 New Zealand: Youth violence increases by 10%
4/26/02 Germany: School Shooting Leaves 17 Dead
6/4/06 Britain: Knives rule the playgrounds as inter-racial violence soars

Health organizations the world over are working on this.

The World Health Organization "World Report on Violence and Health" (2002) begins,"No country or community is untouched by violence. Images and accounts of violence pervade the media; it is on our streets, in our homes, schools, workplaces and institutions. Violence is a universal scourge that tears at the fabric of communities and threatens the life, health and happiness of all of us."

The Pan American Health Organization links gang activity in the Americas to lack of employment and education.

The Centers for Disease Control, National Center for Injury Prevention and Control organize youth violence risk factors by categories: individual, family, peer and community. Among their list of risk factors--authoritarian child rearing, history of victimization, low parental involvement, social rejection by peers, high emotional distress, diminished economic opportunities.

The CDC funds numerous activities aimed at mitigating youth violence using a public health approach: "define the problem, identify risk and protective factors, develop and test prevention strategies, and assure widespread adoption of prevention principles and strategies."

What happened yesterday is incomprehensible and complex. It cannot be reduced to a handy single cause--weak gun laws, bad parenting, mental illness, cultural alienation. It is beyond comprehension, a source of immeasurable suffering at once local and global.