Wednesday, April 25th, 2007 • 3 Comments on Of Tragedy, Misogyny and a Gerbil Named Sprocket
I know I have been quiet lately. I really couldn’t bring myself to write last week and this week it’s all school, all the time.
The tragedy at Virginia Tech overshadows everything. I haven’t been able to read the paper or watch the news since the initial reports, it’s just too painful. Going out last Friday evening and seeing Tech colors everywhere was nearly as hard as watching the news. I understand the grief process. I don’t begrudge anyone their need to fly a flag, wear a sweatshirt or tack on a ribbon—even when it seems to be more of a fad than a tribute.
I try not to be annoyed by the “We are all Hokies” slogan, even though I’m not a Hokie and wouldn’t presume to call myself one because I am not suffering the way they are suffering. I felt this way after 9/11 when someone commented on the fact that I wasn’t flying an American flag or displaying yellow ribbons, even though my husband is in the military and was deployed at the time. Flying a flag or tying a ribbon doesn’t make someone more patriotic—not does it make them understand what it’s like to be a military member in harm’s way (or a military spouse, worrying alone at home), just as wearing orange and maroon doesn’t make me understand what it’s like to be a student in Blacksburg, Virginia right now. People need to feel part of the group, to be included, to embrace symbols, to find safety in numbers. But declaring myself a Hokie simply isn’t the way I grieve. I internalize everything, I go it alone, I cry for people I do not know and I remember names and biographies for a long, long time. Sometimes I think my way to grieve is not the best way.
I haven’t read an article or watched a news report in days, but I still find myself wondering how the students are doing (who are allowed to grieve) and how the faculty members are holding up (who must put up a brave front for the grieving students). I wonder what graduation will be like, and whether people will attend to show support or stay away out of fear of being part of a large crowd. I wonder what attendance will be like in the fall; I wonder if there will be fewer International students but more Virginia resident students. I wonder about the people who suggest students should be allowed to carry concealed weapons. I wonder what that would feel like—to be the person who is carrying a gun just in case something like this ever happens again. I wonder how the family of Cho Seung-Hui is doing, for they are surely victims of this tragedy as well. I wonder about Cho Seung-Hui and whether he could have been saved—saved from the society he believed persecuted him, saved from his own tortured thoughts. I wonder when—not if, when—this will happen again. I wonder how long the flags will be displayed and the ribbons worn before they are replaced with something else, something more cheerful. I wonder how long it will be before people forget. I wonder how long it will be before I forget.
In the aftermath of Virginia Tech, two other events made me cry last week: the Supreme Court and the death of my gerbil, Sprocket. I’m sure there is some quote about strange bedfellows I should throw in here, but I won’t. The Supreme Court decision scares me for so many reasons, some of them personal as I consider my own (tick-tock) reproductive future. This decision also scares me for the next generation of young women, young women who are being told their lives are not nearly as important as that of the fetus they may carry. It scares me to think of what the Supreme Court is saying to women, about women, about the value of life and which lives are most valued.
From Ruth Bader Ginsburg’s dissent:
“The Court’s opinion tolerates, indeed applauds, federal intervention to ban nationwide a procedure found necessary and proper in certain cases by the American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists. For the first time since Roe, the Court blesses a prohibition with no exception protecting a woman’s health.”
Those words send a chill up my spine and make me want to cry. What are we doing to women in the name of protecting their fetuses? Every life has value, but to place the value of a non-viable fetus over that of a woman’s life and health strikes me as frighteningly misogynistic.
Sprocket’s death finished the week for me. It was not a quick end, she suffered for the better part of a day as I alternately held her and watched her. It seems so silly to cry over a gerbil, I know. I’m embarrassed to admit how much it upset me to watch her slip away, but even a furry little rodent—who kept fighting until her last breath—deserves to have someone shed a tear for her.
There is so much good in the world. I keep reminding myself of that, and of how much good I have in my own life. Life is good. It is. It is.