Friday, April 20, 2007

5 to 15

Dan’s new life expectancy statistic sounds way too much like a prison sentence to me. You get 5 to 15 years for robbing a liquor store. You get 5 to 15 for burning down a national forest.

To me, it’s this crazy, crazy idea of “blame the victim.” Through the years, healthcare has alternately cozied up to and backed off of this concept. Alcoholism is a “disease,” but a heart attack can be personally prevented by adopting dietary restrictions.

In the maelstrom of VT coverage, one interview stands out for me. It was with the head of student counseling services and the University of Virginia on NPR, and he had been called in on Tuesday to address the outcries of why Cho hadn’t been stopped. He quietly reminded Melissa Block that trampling individual rights hasn’t been completely okayed by the Supreme Court yet.

But the most important thing he said was that it is our instinct, our desire to have an explanation whenever a tragedy occurs. The idea is that if we can understand the cause, we can prevent it from happening again. But most of the time, there simply is not an explanation. It’s a terrible, terrible thing that no one could have predicted and most likely, could not have been stopped.

No one deserves to die. And even though no one deserves to die, it will happen. It will happen unexpectedly, it will happen violently, it will happen willfully, it will happen accidentally. It will happen. Assigning blame and fault will not stop it from happening. All the prevention and restrictions and regulations will not stop it.

Dan is alive and healthy. I am mourning as if he isn’t. I’ve been doing so much mourning that I can barely get out of bed. Mourning and grieving and looking for someone to blame. This week I learned there’s no one to blame -- up to, and including, the victims. And while this insight is great, it doesn’t give you much comfort.


Anonymous Padraic said...

Guys, greetings from Wisconsin by way of an actuarial meeting in Florida. I appreciate these comments juxtaposing dealing with cancer and dealing with tragedy. In the last 5 years Americans have completely forgotten how to relate to people who actually are subjected to a loss of any kind. We can be exceptionally guilty of "all about me"-ism, and it's for the same reason that that counselor guy says: it orders things for us. God willing, only temporarily, until we're in a place to contemplate the enormity. I do think that we get there eventually, but it's hard to be patient with oneself. Heart and head, you know.

Wishing you both, the twins (happy birthdays!), and the animals a good weekend.

12:54 PM  

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