32 Senseless Deaths: A Chance for Empathy, Change of Heart, and Change of Course

The tragedy at Virginia Tech tears at the heart of everyone. Thirty-two innocent students and teachers, in the normal activities of their lives, are suddenly shot dead. Each one of them has a mother, a father, friends, classmates, siblings, and others who held them dear. And all of these have had their hearts torn, or torn out. There is now emptiness and grief where once there was a person.

Americans in their sharing of this sadness should consider how others in the world have similar feelings when facing similar loss and tragedy. These 32 senseless deaths are a chance for empathy with other communities who have also lost 32 loved persons to sudden death.

A search of Google using the search expression: "Iraq AND ("32 killed" OR "32 died" OR "killing 32")" finds the following news headlines and news text (in brackets):

3 March 2004:
Bremer: U.S. to bolster Iraq border security ("killing 32 people")

24 April 2004:
At least 32 killed, nearly 60 injured in another day of violence in Iraq

1 June 2004:
3rd of detainees who died were assaulted ("32 died in Iraq over 12 months")

16 July 2004:
32 killed as attacks rock Iraq

17 September 2004:
32 killed as US Forces continued their relentless strikes in Baghdad

15 October 2004:
At least 32 killed in Iraq violence

28 December 2004:
32 killed in attacks in Tikrit

23 June 2005:
32 killed in coordinated attacks

14 November 2005:
On American attacks in Iraq ("American navy announced killing 32 gunmen")

9 December 2005:
Suicide bomber on Iraqi bus kills 32

6 January 2006:
Scores killed on Iraq's bloodiest day ("32 killed by a suicide bomber at a Shiite funeral")

2 March 2006:
Iraqi parties want Jaafari out of Prime Minister race ("more violence struck Iraq, killing 32 people")

24 March 2006:
32 killed in attacks across Iraq

14 May 2006:
32 killed in violence

27 June 2006:
Seven Sunni groups seek truce in Iraq ("32 killed in violence")

28 July 2006: IRAQ:
32 killed in Baghdad blasts

8 December 2006:
At least 32 killed in attack on two families in Iraq

10 January 2007:
Weather blamed for plane crash near Baghdad ("killing 32")

30 January 2007:
At least 32 killed in Iraq holy day violence

15 March 2007:
Suicide bomber apparently targeting senior city official devastates busy square in Baghdad ("killing 32 people")

10 April 2007:
Bombings kill 32 in Iraq; U.S. raids hit civilians

15 April 2007:
Dozens killed in Iraqi holy city ("killing at least 32 people")

In each of these tragic events, each one of the 32 people also had a mother, a father, friends, classmates, siblings, and others who held them dear. And all of these also have had their hearts torn, or torn out, to be filled with emptiness and grief.

The tragedy at Virginia Tech was caused by lone gunman, probably deranged. It was a one-time event. It is finished. The tragedy in Iraq was caused by the US government, with the over-whelming support of the US Congress, most of the US media, and much of the US population. This war was planned and executed by rational men and women, none of them deranged.

The US decided to start the war against Iraq.

The US decided to destroy the infrastructure of Iraq.

The US decided to destroy the Iraqi government and to disband its police and army.

The US decided to send too few soldiers to secure the nation after doing these destructive deeds.

And the tragedy of Iraq is not a one-time event. It is not finished. It continues, apparently without end.

By many reports, the US is now preparing to start another war, this time against Iran.

Americans feeling the shock and grief of the tragedy at Virginia Tech should look into their hearts and realize that they through their government are bringing this same tragedy again, and again, and again, and again, and again, endlessly and needlessly, to other people in the world who also have hearts that can be torn out, who also feel grief and loss when family and friends are suddenly killed when doing ordinary things of life, like going to school.

Tragic deaths force us to feel our humanity and to see we are similar to others in the world. The tragic deaths in Virginia might serve to motivate Americans to curb their militarism and to minimize the tragedies of sudden death that they have been bringing to other families in the world.

Floyd Rudmin is a professor of psychology at the University of TromsAfA, in Norway. He is also affiliated with the Centre for Peace Studies and is a member of Science for Peace.

Join Us: News for people demanding a better world

Common Dreams is powered by optimists who believe in the power of informed and engaged citizens to ignite and enact change to make the world a better place.

We're hundreds of thousands strong, but every single supporter makes the difference.

Your contribution supports this bold media model—free, independent, and dedicated to reporting the facts every day. Stand with us in the fight for economic equality, social justice, human rights, and a more sustainable future. As a people-powered nonprofit news outlet, we cover the issues the corporate media never will. Join with us today!

Our work is licensed under Creative Commons (CC BY-NC-ND 3.0). Feel free to republish and share widely.