Sunday, February 17, 2008

Saying my last prayers in class-On Vals day

Kazmierczak was gentle,quiet and bright

by Etse Sikanku

I have began to get used to the idea that anytime I step into a class at Iowa State University it could very well be my last.

This may sound weird but I’m not ashamed to say it--Ever since the Virginia Tech shooting incident I’ve dreamt more than a few times about a gun man storming into one of my classes and shooting everyone dead.

My trepidations have now been heightened by the recent shooting incident at Northern Illinois University on St. Valentine day. As to why the gunman- Steven Kazmierczak-chose such a day of love and romance to execute an act of monstrosity remains a mystery which no one is sure to solve. Can you imagine what the partners of those dead would be going through considering they might very well have scheduled a date for the evening?

The shooting incident on Thursday was the fourth at a US school within a week. On Feb. 8, a woman shot two fellow students to death before committing suicide at Louisiana Technical College in Baton Rouge. In Memphis, Tenn., a 17-year-old stands accused of shooting and seriously wounding a fellow student Monday during a high school gym class, and the 15-year-old victim of a shooting at an Oxnard, Calif., junior high school has been declared brain dead.

Let’s face it people, there can never be any society which would be 100% security proof but the rampant nature of this shootings is too grave an issue to sweep over.

There is a reason this happens so often in the United States of America and not that many other places. When that menacing junior Cho Seung-Hui killed about 33 people at Virginia Tech, he was found to have been diagnosed of mental illness two years earlier. The package which he posted to NBC-dubbed a multimedia manifesto-had claims of neglect, solitude and accusations of suppression. In his own words Cho said “"you forced me into a corner"

That incident is one of the four deadliest shooting incidents in this country. This list includes the Columbine High School gunmen Eric Harris and Dylan Klebold, who killed 13 people and themselves on April 20, 1999, in Littleton, Colorado, the 1927 Bath School disaster and the 1966 University of Texas massacre. Since Cho’s diabolical act there have several more shooting incidents across the United States where energetic, strong and promising lives were cut short by errant shooters.

Isn’t it a mystery then that the authorities haven’t taken seriously the easy way in which guns are made available to anyone at all in the country? Take Cho and Kazmierczak for instance. It was so easy for them to purchase the items, with Kazmierczak purchasing his just a few days before the incident.

All you have to do is to pass simple processes such as a background check and provide a drivers license. Why should buying a weapon as deadly as a gun be as simple as or even easier than buying alcohol or travelling from one country to the other?

When people apply for visas to the United States for instance they are taken through rigorous background checks even if enough information has been gathered previously. Why should it be easier to purchase a gun than for animals-harmless as they are-to travel from one country to another?
But this is a society which is more disturbed by dog fights than suicidal killers remember.

The gun ownership, control and availability laws in this country are simply obnoxious and deserve a second look. Before our very eyes several promising lives have been lost. It is no understatement to say that an incident such as the ones which occurred at Northern Illinois or Virginia Tech could be repeated anywhere, any day and any of us could be the victims.

Maybe we should consider arming professors with guns in class. Maybe we should have military commandos sit in every class. Others may make arguments about the use of sharp alert and emergency response systems on our campuses.

How efficient is Iowa State’s emergency/alert system?

Or could the answer be traced to the solitary and individualistic way of life of Americans? Even here in ISU some of us have a story or two to tell about how disaffection with the hands off way of life here changed some people's life in a major way.
I meet and chat with a lot of international students and i can tell you i have never known of a more lonely or solitary life than the ones i've seen and heard out here.

Consequently each time I sit in class or any public event at Iowa State, I have decided to say my last prayers as often as possible just in case someone springs up and shoots me dead.

Farfetched you might say but sadly it’s the reality of the day.

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