Columbine in Crimea
Columbine in Crimea
While Americans were busy venting their outrage about Jamal Khashoggi, about the left attacking the right in restaurants, about the right accosting the left in other restaurants, and about the NPC meme, something horrible happened in Crimea – a Columbine-like event that left 20 people dead and scores more injured. I can’t blame us; there’s a lot going on – everything from the mid-term elections around the corner, to violence in our streets, to Lizzie Warren’s “Pocahonky” moment.
But we forget there’s a whole world out there in which events can result in secondary and even tertiary effects – unintended consequences that we don’t even consider…
…until it’s too late.
Th Wall Street Journal reports that authorities first considered the shooting at a college in Crimea – the sliver of property in Ukraine annexed by Russia in 2014 that led to what some have referred to as Cold War v. 2.0 – a terrorist attack. The 18-year-old murderer Vladislav Roslyakov opened fire and detonated explosives at Kerch Polytechnic College, before self-terminating.
Authorities now say the shooting was mass murder, but some believe that Roslyakov had help, in which case, there could be another murderer at large in the area.
Politicians and the local media immediately took to their computers to lay blame, to explore causes for the tragedy, to be the first at the mike, on camera, or on Twitter to publicize their take. This isn’t unusual – vultures can sense their next meal.
“The nightmare of school shootings has now come to us,” Russian opposition leader Alexey Navalny said in a tweet, offering condolences to the families of the dead and to the injured.
The tragedy was dubbed “Crimea’s Columbine” by local commentators, referring to the 1999 assault at Colorado’s Columbine High School in which two students massacred a dozen of their peers and one teacher before dying by suicide.
The last gun attack at a school in Russia was in 2014 when a student in Moscow shot dead a teacher and policeman. According to official data, there have been five attacks in schools in Russia this year, in which several children were injured. Those incidents involved knives, axes or air guns.
The Virginia Tech massacre happened during my last deployment. My job back then involved being part of a liaison team that held talks with an adversarial country. We were scheduled for a bilateral meeting on the day we received the news.
There was no adversarial snark that day. The head of the delegation, who normally enjoyed needling the ignorant, stuck up head of our team at these meetings, opened the event and very solemnly passed on his condolences. He did not use his interpreter, but rather conveyed his kind thoughts in broken English.
At that moment, we were not adversaries. We were human beings recognizing an enormous tragedy and acknowledging an unimaginable grief.
After his initial comment in English, the delegation head told us through his interpreter that no matter what political garbage went on between our two nations, we were all human beings, and this tragedy extended far beyond politics.
I will never forget his words, and I apply those sentiments here.
Twenty young people died at that school three days ago. Twenty promising lives were snuffed out by a heartless murderer, who according to several accounts, was having trouble at school and got into disputes with his professors. Twenty families have lost someone they loved, and 50 more sustained injuries.
This is not the time for adversarial snark.
This is a tragedy – an event that will probably shape Russia’s policy – not just on gun ownership, but also on freedom of expression and access to information which ultimately could impact relations with the United States.
Russian President Vladimir Putin has blamed a mass shooting at a college in Crimea on globalisation.
“Everything started with well-known tragic events in schools in the United States. Young people with unstable minds create false heroes for themselves,” he said.
“This means that we all, not just Russia, but we across the world are reacting badly to changing conditions in the world,” Mr Putin said.
“We are not creating necessary, interesting and useful content for young people.”
Yes, this is Putin taking a backhanded swipe at the United States and our free access to information. Yes, this is Putin signaling a possible change in how Russians access information. And yes, this – at least to me – portends yet another turn toward the Soviet days, when information was tightly controlled, newspapers, magazines, and books were censored, and the state created “necessary, interesting and useful” content for young people.
So yes, this event – that barely anyone mentioned or cared about – could further impact Russia’s relations with the West.
Our hearts, thoughts, and prayers are with the families of everyone impacted by this horrific tragedy.
It might seem like we’re a bit distracted these days, but we do care, we do understand, we do sympathize, and many of us do empathize. The victims deserve our solemn respect, and I hope their families find peace as they work to deal with this horror.