Support Without Strings

On a local homeschool list, a message came through with the subject “Prayer for VT…and they took prayers out of schools! It’s back now!”. To which I responded:

Can we please remember that although I do believe that we all share the same sense of sadness and outrage over this what has happened in Blacksburg, not everyone here shares the same religious beliefs or same stance on controversial issues (such as prayer in school)?

And as an alumnus of Va Tech it has greatly saddened me to see people jumping on this tragedy to promote their pet political/religious issue. They are loosing sight that for many this is not just an “opportunity” or a “news story”. This is a real event that has affected many real people. Va Tech needs to be given the space to take care of their own.

To which Terri posted the following comment on my previous post (quoted here in part):

Beyond the obvious sympathies for Va. Tech., I have 3 thoughts: first, I agree with all of your comments about opportunism, particularly for religious causes and the media; second, I nonetheless bristle a bit at the efforts to exclude people from the discussion as “outsiders,” I just don’t think that’s the right approach either, as many homeschoolers (like us) are not “joiners” and even though we eschew groups generally (even as alumni) we still have condolences to offer, so we’d like to be heard without feeling rebuffed or corrected by “insiders”;

And I am very glad that she did. Because I did not mean at all that I felt that all “outsiders” should leave Va Tech alone. This tragedy is something that has greatly affected the nation (and world!) and I did not mean to suggest that folks who are not directly connected to Va Tech are not affected. Or that they should not offer their support. On Friday, we went to Outback to celebrate the boys getting their next Teakwando belts. It was very heartwarming to see so many Hokie hats and shirts and colors all over…I have no idea how many were alumni, VT parents or friends and how many were just supporters and it really did not matter.

A student totally unrelated to Va Tech has started a Remember VT Website through which you can read more about the victims and also purchase VT bracelets and make a donation to the Hokie Spirit Fund. I have also seen wonderful emails full of support and love, letting Va Tech know that they are not alone.

My problem is with “outsiders trying to promote a particular agenda in the guise of support”. Who send emails in “support” of Va Tech yet tack on an explanation of why this supports their cause (like prayer in school). I saw one “Call to Prayer” that also celebrated the recent Supreme Court decision on abortion. I guess that if these emails were just going out to followers of that group, I would not have as much of a problem with them. However, these emails are being forwarded onto people and email lists all over. The mixing of causes can be painful to people who have been affected yet do not agree with the political/religious views.

The Roanoke Times had a piece titled “On Heels of Shooting, Religious Groups Pour Into Blacksburg” about the variety of different religious groups coming onto campus ranging from Franklin Graham (son of Billy Graham) to Youth of America. Obviously a majority of these groups just want to lend support (although I would like to point out that Blacksburg has a wealth of relgious organizations that already serve the campus). But some like Operation Save America and Rev. Ed Phelps (whose website said that it plans on picketing Va Tech funerals) obviously have other agendas.

I also believe that this shooting does raise issues (such as gun control and mental health) that need to be discussed as a nation. However, right after the shooting is not the time or place. I was happy to see Governor Tim Kaine shut down that line of questioning quickly at one press conference. Nor is it fair to pull individual students into the discussion (unless they choose to be part of it) as some in the media tried to very quickly.

It will be interesting to see where this conversation goes. I do hope that it goes somewhere. I do want to see this event being a springboard to a national discussion. Let’s just keep that discussion (which has already become heated) separate from our support of those affected. That is all that I ask.

~Stephanie

About throwingmarshmallows

I am a homeschooling mom to two sweet, energetic boys although I am probably not exactly what you would expect (definitely NOT your stereotypical homeschooler, if there is really such a thing). I support progressive political causes (yes, liberals can and do homeschool!) and I have found a spiritual home in the Unitarian Universalist Church. I have no real idea of how I want to use this blog, but will probably focus on homeschooling, things that I am learning from my boys, personal thoughts and opinions and maybe some liberal politics thrown in, who knows!
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2 Responses to Support Without Strings

  1. Steph says:

    I, too, would like to see this event become a national springboard for discussion of topics that need to be addressed (such as how we could better intervene with troubled youth), when the time is right. Unfortunately I think the media has a short attention span. I saw the O.J. Simpson trial inspire interest in the subject of domestic violence and the tragedy at Columbine spark discussion of intervening when children are bullied. Soon that moment had passed, however, and we were on to new soundbytes. I hope I am wrong in my cynical take on things.

    I agree with you that this is a time for compassion and quiet prayers – not to take the pulpit to promote religious or political causes. Very well said.

    Like many people, I am still feeling a lot of sadness and confusion. I wish there were something I could do to help. It *is* heartening to see the outpouring of support for VT. Most people have such a wealth of kindness and compassion to offer.

  2. JoVE says:

    I don’t know. I’m inclined to think that maybe all outsiders should at least consider why they feel inclined to comment and intervene. I think that some of it is created by the media who have stirred up a whole lot of emotion around this to their own ends (which is to sell advertising, which requires viewers, readers, etc).

    The shooting is a tragic event. But it is a very rare occurance. It is not symptomatic of some major worsening in American life. And it doesn’t really affect folks outside very much. Yes, it is shocking. But whether it warrants national mourning is another question.

    That is not to say that there doesn’t need to be a national conversation of youth mental health and how we deal with it. But this is only one (rather extreme) example of the consequences. There are a lot of reasons to have that conversation and they are mostly not newsworthy. Did you know that suicide is the 2nd biggest cause of death amongst people under 18? That warrants a conversation. And it warranted it long before one kid went nuts with a gun (as tragic as that is).

    By tying the need for this conversation to one extreme and unlikely event, we might actually be feeding the process the other Steph bemoans in her comment — we talk about it now when the media is there and then we don’t do anything about it.

    So I would actually be more assertive about saying that this is an event that folks attached to VA Tech in some way need time to mourn and that outsiders should back off. The media are manipulating the rest of us and we need to be aware of that. I am sad that so many people have died in this way. But my grief will never be (and should never be) comparable to that felt by you and by those close to the victims and to those who survived.