Campuses across the country are reeling still from the worst gun massacre in the country (the horror is that we must add a silent “so far”). We struggle to understand, stagger to find there were people we had met (the world gets smaller and smaller) and try, in vain, to understand. All those lives, those lights cut short — and the call for anger, for vengeance, for sorrow. Sanctimonious leaders ask us to pray while they close their eyes to legislation that might make it a little more difficult for a troubled person to amass an arsenal without flags being raised. Instead they’ll continue to leech rights from the innocent, all in the name of protecting us, as they have done for the last six year, and the numbing pain continues.
This incident has particular repercussions for those of us in the education field — yes, particularly those of us in English Departments, and even more, those who teach creative writing. One of the shooter’s fellow classmates posted his writings — a highly suspect thing to do regardless of one’s honorable motives — and there was a deluge of comments about how clear it was that he was disturbed and his teachers were negligent in not recommending him for counseling (the latter not true).
Ridiculous: shall we lock up anyone who writes horror novels and films with their “really twisted, macabre violence”? Let’s get Quentin Tarantino and Robert Rodriguez behind bars now! Here’s the thing — and it’s a little thing called imagination. It has a lot of power. But power can be used for any aim. I had a student in one creative writing course who wrote macabre horror where she killed her boss over and over in imaginative ways. It was a good outlet for dealing with a boss who treated her with disdain in a job she could not afford to lose. Imagination has the power to help us transcend the pain and loss of our lives. We need to use it, not hound it out of existence.
The world is not a safe place; the world will never be a safe place. Let’s not hide behind our locked doors, regulate every inch of our bodies and live in festering darkness. Honor those who are gone with light and hope.