Tuesday, April 17, 2007


When you're walking down a crowded city sidewalk, thinking about your daily stuff, the last thing on your mind is that any person walking past, any stranger, could end your life. But they could. They could shoot you, stab you, throw acid on you, punch you, trip you -- the fact is, the list of terrible things that someone could do to you is endless, and there's nothing you can do to protect yourself from every possible threat. Chaos is just a blink away.

People know this, and yet we walk in public without dread.

Occasionally -- not very often, but sometimes -- somebody makes a decision to violate our trust. It happens just often enough to keep us aware of the possibility, but not often enough to turn us against one another.

In Blacksburg yesterday, somebody tore a hole in the web of trust. We don't really know what caused this, or what motivated anybody, but the unthinkable happened, the thing we know is possible, and innocent people were murdered.

It could happen anywhere, at any time. But it doesn't. Yesterday's incident dominates today's news because it is so extraordinary. Think about how many guns are out there in America, how many angry people, how many people who have been mistreated or feel they have been mistreated, and yet, this sort of thing almost never happens. Even the dispossessed help maintain the pliant fabric that is woven of our lives.

The rest of us will never know what made one person do such a horrible thing. Some may try to empathize with him, to see his point, and some may simply choose to blame him for the violation. I think that will be an expression of your personality; neither approach is wrong, necessarily. We all are going to try to reconcile this with what we know from our own lives.

Over the coming days we will come to know the victims and their families, and we will see some funerals, mothers crying, fathers biting their lip, people wiping their eyes. We will hear the question "Why?" a lot of times, and those who attempt to answer it will only look like fools. Brace yourself.

As we look at the large-font headlines and the news reporters standing out in the wind searching for something to say, I just want to point out the contrast between this event and our ordinary lives, which are peaceful. I want to acknowledge, in my awkward way, the web of trust that includes us all, and which enables us to find love in the world and to live to our potential. It is our duty and pleasure to take good care of one another. We should be thankful every day for that respectful interdependence that binds us together and makes happiness, if not certain, at least possible.


Blogger andrea said...

The news still made me tremble and call both of my college kids even though they don't go to school anywhere near Blacksburg. I was in Philly when I heard the first report and heard more on I-95. I stopped in Aberdeen to call my kids

April 17, 2007 1:28 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

I called mine too, Andrea.

I'm pretty sure just about every parent feels that could have been our kid(s). Our hearts ache for the families and friends who lost dear ones.

We're all Hokies today.

April 17, 2007 6:26 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...


Thank you for your posting. Today has been so sad, and your words have expressed things I am sure so many of us are feeling, but couldn't quite articulate. Thank you.


April 17, 2007 7:20 PM  
Blogger Orin Ryssman said...

You are correct Jim, it is a web of trust...what motivates me is the following verse:

Genesis 4:9,

And the LORD said unto Cain, Where is Abel thy brother? And he said, I know not: Am I my brother’s keeper?

The resounding answer to so cynical a question is yes, we are our "brother's keeper". Best wishes and prayers for all those left behind to put the pieces back together (the best anyone can).

April 19, 2007 4:56 PM  
Blogger JimK said...

Orin, thank you for your comments. You're right, we do have to "keep" one another, and we all know that. We fight about the details of how best to accomplish that, but when you get down to it, that's what we're all about.


April 19, 2007 5:33 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

When we fail to "keep" our brothers and sisters, there can be bad consequences.

"For decades, Mississippi and neighboring states with large black populations and expanses of enduring poverty made steady progress in reducing infant death. But, in what health experts call an ominous portent, progress has stalled and in recent years the death rate has risen in Mississippi and several other states.

...In 2004, Gov. Haley Barbour came to office promising not to raise taxes and to cut Medicaid. Face-to-face meetings were required for annual re-enrollment in Medicaid and CHIP, the children’s health insurance program; locations and hours for enrollment changed, and documentation requirements became more stringent.

As a result, the number of non-elderly people, mainly children, covered by the Medicaid and CHIP programs declined by 54,000 in the 2005 and 2006 fiscal years. According to the Mississippi Health Advocacy Program in Jackson, some eligible pregnant women were deterred by the new procedures from enrolling.

...The state Health Department has cut back its system of clinics, in part because of budget shortfalls and a shortage of nurses. Some clinics that used to be open several days a week are now open once a week and some offer no prenatal care.

The department has also suffered management turmoil and reductions in field staff, problems so severe that the state Legislature recently voted to replace the director.


April 22, 2007 1:59 PM  

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