Violence Without Reason


Violence Without Reason


By John Davisson

Thirty-two dead and dozens more wounded in Blacksburg. A Journalism School student raped, cut, and burned in Hamilton Heights. These are the twin horrors—baffling, appalling, and without reason—that greeted Columbia's community on Monday.

Sadistic acts are lamentable and far-too-common features of the human experience. Each successive day brings with it reports of gut-wrenching atrocities, many on a greater scale than these two attacks, most eliciting a quieter outcry. But our empathy and fear operate in analogues, so it gives us special pause when senseless brutality impacts those bound to us through shared educational experience, whether at Columbia or a peer institution.

In these cases, we cannot help but ask why, how, and most alarmingly whether such incidents could recur, but the replies do little to diminish the widespread sense of confusion and grief. One wonders what train of thought led someone to butcher a room full of fellow human beings or brutalize a lone victim, but the causes seem to defy reason, and the savagery yields few good answers. Violence, author Jean Genet wrote, is a calm that disturbs you.

In the coming days, much will be said about prevention: what could have been and should be done to forestall such acts of cruelty. This is a good and crucial discussion, but, sadly, one that cannot erase the pain inflicted on the victims and those close to them. Time may bring a degree of distance and comfort, but investigation will only supply the how—never the root causes, the why.

We offer, as do all, our deepest condolences to those affected by these crimes, and we hope that the coming weeks will offer them some measure of healing.


Original Source: Columbia Spectator
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John Davisson, “Violence Without Reason,” The April 16 Archive, accessed June 24, 2024,