Wednesday, April 18, 2007

Rescue Fantasies

I keep picturing all these little kids playing some game in this big field of rye and all. Thousands of little kids, and nobody's around--nobody big, I mean--except me. And I'm standing on the edge of some crazy cliff. What I have to do, I have to catch everybody if they start to go over the cliff--I mean if they're running and they don't look where they're going I have to come out from somewhere and catch them. --Holden Caulfield, Catcher in the Rye by J. D. Salinger.

In the era of televised traumas--Kennedy’s assassination, the killing of John Lennon, 9/11--it’s hard not to feel guilty over our helplessness and seek outlets for those feelings.

For months after November 22, 1963, many Americans would awake from sweat dreams of the Dallas motorcade, book depository, silent screams, slow-motion lunges at a relentless assassin, images of rescues going awry.

Now the Web is alive with Virginia Tech shoulda-woulda- couldas--conservatives blaming the victims for not overpowering the shooter, liberals deriding the blamers for their armchair courage.

Both sides cite the 76-year-old Israeli professor who died saving his students, but there is no moral equivalence between a Holocaust survivor and sheltered young people whose experience of murder is limited to movies and video games.

Perhaps the best way to settle the argument is to blame the video games, as Dr. Phil did last night on Larry King. That kind of wisdom will help us all sleep better.

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