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The Federalist Diaries


 Walks outside the Box, Part 1

Progress is impossible without change, and those who cannot change their minds cannot change anything.
George Bernard Shaw, Irish literary critic, playwright and essayist,
1925 Nobel Prize for Literature, 1856-1950 

“Walks outside the Box” is about finding solutions when others shrug their shoulder,   despair or offer palliatives.  How do we start this essay?  Because the killings at Virginia Tech are headline news, we start there.  I find myself asking, “What solution is there to prevent such a tragedy from recurring?” 

          In American tradition, finding solutions is difficult, because we look for a consensus.  A consensus, in most instances, means that some group will be dissatisfied in some respect or some solution will be less than complete.  Also, there are prerequisites before we start fashioning a solution.  For example, as “World News Tonight” is reporting in the background, the culture of campus security clashes with the culture of an open university campus.  Thus, killings on a campus cannot be prevented with certainty. 

          But we can improve the odds if we stop looking for a consensus and set aside the prerequisites.  To do so, we have to ask ourselves which are our indispensable priorities and values, and which are our dispensable priorities and values.  When somebody express the concern that we would be treading on inalienable rights, I would ask, “What makes a right inalienable, given that definitions change with time?” and “Where does a right which clashes with the right to life stand in the ranking of priorities and values?”  When somebody says that I should sequester myself for protection if a shooting is taking place, I ask, “Why should I not try to kill the killer with whatever means is at my disposable?” and “Why must I wait until professionals come to put an end to the shooting?” 

          A professor who had taught the Virginia Tech killer creative writing said that she had discussed the killer’s morbid writing with others, but that nothing could be done under the law.  The question was asked whether the campus should have been locked down, but the answer was that there were many ways to get onto the campus.  Questions are now being raised about Virginia’s laws on gun ownership. 

          One can become confused and frustrated by the constraints on possible solutions.  In taking a walk outside the box, in trying to come up with a solution, I say, “It makes more sense for me to look to myself for a solution than to look to others.”  In other words, if I look at all the priorities and values which constrain campus security and local law enforcement, I cannot depend on them to ensure my safety.  This is not to say that I should prevent them from doing their job;  rather, this is to say that I am not going to depend on them, as, even if they did their job, they could not guarantee my safety.  With regard to self-preservation, I am not ready to become a sacrifice to the ephemeral or ambiguous priorities and values of others.  I take a walk outside the box to find a solution. 

          But what does that mean practically?  We will explore that in the next part.

April 19, 2007































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