Thursday, April 19, 2007

Thoughts on Talking About Tough Issues

In the wake of the Virginia Tech tragedy, I've been struck by how much my friends, American and international, want and need to talk about it. Some want to talk about the human element--who was this killer? Why did he do it? Was it because of his "background," and how he was brought up? Should the Asian American community, particular at Virginia Tech, fear backlash? Is this going to jumpstart xenophobia regarding Asians, and bring back stereotypes about the "perpetual other"? Some want to jump straight to the policy discussion. Why doesn't America have more stringent gun control laws? Should universities act in loco parentis, and if Virginia Tech had, would this have been prevented? Is this an aberration, or is this something that is a product of our national policies and social culture?

I dont' know the answers. I don't even have fully formulated thoughts or opinions--right now all I have are impressions, and reactions. Often conflicting. And all very sad.

I can't express them very coherently, but I will express my sadness and condolences to those affected. And I think everyone is affected. I can't detach myself intellectually and analyze only the policy issues, as if everyone who died was a mere statistic and the person at fault some nameless, faceless, "raceless" killer. But I can't say that I care only about the human tragedy--my thoughts on this reach beyond the individual people and to my country and its direction, and humanity and its collective soul.

I don't know what to think or say. I don't feel that I should. So much of the media coverage and blog discussion out there is normative, prescriptive--as it should be, we should not shy away from having opinions and recommendations. But I feel utterly inequipped to offer any of my own. In all the discussions I've been having about this, I've been hesitant, almost equivocating. I don't know why I don't want to declare strong opinions, when usually I am very opinionated about almost everything. I think I am waiting--for more information, for a sense of certitude (if ever it comes) about my opinions on big, tough public policy issues, for more insight into the mind of a troubled youth with whom I can never identify but know that some people will expect me to intuit, as he is ostensibly a member of "my" Asian American community.

So I write today not to offer you my commentary in the form of opinions or recommendations, but just to say that I find it all very confusing. And very sad.

But I shall keep on talking about this. Even if the discussions go "nowhere" in terms of finding a reason or solution--somehow, even if there is nothing I can say at the end of the conversation that defines me or the problem at hand, I feel like talking is constructive. In all of these tough conversations with different people and about different aspects, I find that I grow closer to finding where I stand, and where I believe my country should be. It's tough to talk about this, but I think I should. I don't always feel a sense of responsibility to talk about or write about certain issues, for example just because they touch on issues of race or gender--but this is more than about race or the 2nd Amendment. It is about someone of my generation, it is about my country, it is about my humanity.

So let's talk.