Two Tragedies, Half a World Apart

The headline news in Japan this morning is likely not much different from the headline news everywhere else: the horrific school shooting in Connecticut seems to have caught the attention of everyone on the face of the planet. From what I have been able to glean from the internet and from English-language TV here, 26 people were killed, 27 if you include the shooter.

Halfway around the world, at more or less the same time, and with somewhat less international fanfare thus far, a similar yet in some respects wildly different scenario played out in Chenpeng Village, in central China’s Henan Province. A man described as “mentally disturbed” went on a rampage with a knife, slashing 22 children at the village school, as well as one elderly woman off site. Apparently he stole a kitchen knife from the 85-year-old woman, assaulting her before heading to the elementary school next door, where he launched his attack on the school children. He was disarmed by school security guards and restrained until the arrival of the police. Thus far, nobody has died, although several of the kids are reported to be in critical condition.

So, the similarities: one mentally disturbed individual with a weapon (or weapons) in each situation; attack takes place in an elementary school; similar time (when adjusted for local time zone); same date; similar number of people attacked…

And the difference: in China, so far, no fatalities; in Connecticut, so far, 27 fatalities…

And the indisputable reason for the difference in number of fatalities: the use of a gun or guns, as opposed to (in this case) a knife, the circumstances facilitated by the comparative ease with which one can obtain semi-automatic weaponry in the US nowadays…

I agree with President Obama’s press secretary, Jay Carney, that today is not the day for political posturing regarding gun laws. This is a day for mourning, for prayers if you believe in them, for compassion for the victims and their families, and for flying the flag at half-staff. That said, I cannot help but compare the two tragedies and wonder how differently things would have played out if presumed killer Adam Lanza had had only a kitchen knife at his disposal.

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