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.