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Zen and the Art of Speedskating » Trolley Square

Trolley Square


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Trolley Square, this afternoon.

Last night an 18 year old shot 5 people dead here. We don’t even know the name of the killer yet, but the reasons that teenage white men put on trench coats & go nuts in a blaze of dysfunctional family-provided firepower often pan out the same.

Dozens of news trucks are surrounding this small mall of restaurants, clothing shops & a movie theatre. Satellite dishes and huge 50 foot antenna masts loom over news anchors streaming constant updates & commentary skyward about this nationwide “tragedy of the day” as traffic blithely hisses past.

I can see the lit entrance of Trolley Square from my bedroom window, and drive by it several times a day. The gym Jessica & I lift weights in is “Trolley Corners” right across the road.

This how the New York Times described what happened:

Witnesses told of the sounds of gunfire, screaming and crying and of a scene of havoc that lasted almost an hour during dinnertime

and here is the Salt Lake Tribune’s piece:

The bodies were found “in various parts of the mall.” Witnesses told The Tribune that three bodies were in Cabin Fever card store, one in Pottery Barn Kids and another outside of Bath and Body Works.

Horrors, absolute horrors.

When random violent death comes to “Pottery Barn Kids”, does it change how we look at this world?

I have often wished in a small way that this was a wider kind of blog, so I could write about more things that simply skating in a circle. I went to practice this morning, skated well, and forgot all about murder on my doorstep. It did not even really register emotionally when a coach told me his wife was headed to Trolley Square when this happened, and at the last minute she went to a different mall.

Then I drove by Trolley Square on my way home.

I wrote about 10 paragraphs that I just deleted, firstly about how our culture is changing because of the Iraq war, like this shocking photo in the NY times of this tragedy as it happened.

I wrote about the connection between this seemingly random horror and the 100 found dead every day in Baghdad. Many of them tortured with blowtorches & power drills before being shot.

Is there a connection? Absolutely! The connection is in what a human soul goes through, and how is it humiliated, shaped, & twisted, before being able to commit horrors like this.

And are we, as a wider society, partially to blame? Both in the emptiness & loneliness of our own society, that so often is a catalyst for the latent psychopathic element that has always been and will always be with us.

And are we to blame, as Americans, for creating a place where extremely well armed psychopaths praise god on one hand, and then create 20 Trolley Squares worth of death every single day with the other.

I almost just deleted these last 5 paragraphs, but this time, I will leave them.

17 Responses to “Trolley Square”

  1. The US can only solve this problem by making a law against guns. I every civilised country there is such a law that forbids civilians to own a gun. In my city nobody owns a gun, unless he’s a criminal.
    Of course there are killings in Europe, but never on such a massive scale. In a lot of cases in Holland men were involved who had a license, or even policemen killing their family. They had guns. It’s al about ownership of guns. In Canada there is such a law, its a very peaceful country! Many thousands of people in the US were killed because the governemnt alows guns.

  2. The beauty of your blog Andrew, is that speedskating IS what it focuses on.

    Trolley Square is a tragedy, unfortunately there will be another one tomorrow… or the next day…

    I think we look for things, whether it’s skating in a circle, or reading about skating in a circle, that take us away from the Trolley Squares of the world (and away from those that create such situations). Even if it is only for a brief moment.

  3. The law against guns thing is really difficult. It’s one of the founding principles of the US - the right to bear arms.

    Growing up in NYC I always thought that someone who owned a gun had something wrong with them. Then I moved to Colorado, and met a friend who carries a shotgun with her when she rides her horse in the mountains. If her horse were to fall and critically injure itself, she would either have to slit its throat or shoot it. The more humane choice is to shoot the horse. She would also carry the gun as defense against mountain lions and crazy people who see a small group of women on horseback as potential victims.

    It’s really easy to characterize people owning guns as being of one mind, yet I’ve learned that individuals’ relationships with guns can vary greatly. I work with some black powder enthusiasts, and have friends who hunt.

    And really, when you criminalize anything, you set up a black market that profits the wrong people. Seeing how easy it is for people to get illegal drugs, illegal exotic pets, illegal anything in this country, that kid would have gotten a gun regardless.

    The solution? Education, awareness, change in attitude. I think that more than a criticism of gun policy in the US, I hear a criticism of American culture. I agree! We are sick in the head in a lot of ways compared with many other nations. And while I strive to live as exemplary a life as I can, the change should also begin at the top…

  4. Yes, we have the right to bear arms, but with that right, there is responsibility.

    Just like we have the right to our choices, but with that right, we have to exercise responsibility when making those choices.

    That is what the right to bear arms is about–responsible choices.

    I don’t own a gun, but there are at least two firearms in my house. I don’t use them and I have no intent on using them (one of which I have no idea where it is located).

  5. GUNS making them hard to find will not help. People who want them will find them The IRA is a good example England has some of the strongest gun laws on earth yet people still die. I know a lot about the gun world maby more than I should there are millions upon millions of fire arms in the US even if the goverment wanted to get rid of them all they would only find a very very small fraction. most collectors have bought fire arms out side of FFL checks making the guns untraceable. being a member of the NRA I feel some fire arms shouldn’t be sold to the public. Like 50 cal snipe rifles these kinds of rifles have a range of 1.5 miles and could take down an airliner. In the state of UT you need no extencive background check which I find totaly crazy.

    The real ansawer is to kill your T.V. mass killings were none existant in the 30s-40s then the 500 cable channels with nothing on happened,also the age of the video game killing sport as we know it. The school killing are due to both parents working and having no idea whats going on at home (I know this for a fact I work with that teen population)so work or take care of your kids. Question to people out there in cyber space when was the last time you talked to the people next door or hosted a block party. The more we can all stay connected as a people the better chance everyone will think twice before acting. real change always comes from small grass root orgs not top heavy gov.

    My final point speaking of gov we may need our guns for revolution. The french feel its about 200-300 year cycle no question why there not excited about Iraq. If our economic train comes to a grinding hault like I see it there will be all kinds of fallout. People are only human and revolution is always possable.

    I just want people to realize we can try our best to make it a safe world but it never has been nor ever will be.

  6. I think there’s a problem not just with guns but with the fact that things are fixed up too late. Maybe now there will be more security in malls or bags won’t be allowed inside, but all that would do is keep everyday people from walking in quickly. It seems to me that not enough is done to actually solve problems. The problems that casued this horrible event that won’t be solved are that not enough value is placed on education, no one notices (or really cares?) anything is wrong before a kid goes and kills people, adults are too anxious to argue with each other rather than help and discipline children/teenagers… It always looks like prevention is too much work, or it wouldn’t be strategic politically. Of course, I don’t have a solution either, and I don’t know what should or will be next.

  7. This is way interesting… Here’s another vote for guns, per se, not being the problem. I shoot, really enjoy it, and especially encourage women to become familiar with guns and not intimidated by them.

    In all societies and times, there have been bad and damaged people, there have been massacres large and small. I did kill my TV, many years ago; I agree it’s a bad influence on people’s minds and lives in a lot of ways - but no, this kind of thing isn’t new in the last 70 years. (If anything, gun-related deaths have been declining steadily in the US for almost 20 years, and no one’s got a really persuasive theory why.) It’s just much better known now. In 1930, we in Ithaca might never have heard of a mass killing in Utah.

    “First, do no harm.” Skating in a circle doesn’t seem to harm anyone :) - therefore, it needs no excuse. (I personally can often find comfort in the thought that, however useless or annoying I’m being, at least I’m not out killing anyone: I do have SOME standards.)

  8. Don’t know what to write. What a losses of lives - all over the world. Salt Lake Bagdad.
    Still: the “normalcy” and easy availability of all kinds of guns for everyone in U-rSA is stunning. I just don’t get this fundamental right. Different culture? Does it matter.
    Less weapons over the place would/could help a bit, -alas - not enough and not against distorted maniacs. I hope I don’t interfere: would it help to have more Americans vote for a fundamentally friendlier party and president? Bitter realism: I guess none of both parties will/would dare to do something against the weapons-flow.

    Take care.

  9. A law against guns? Like one that says you can’t take a gun into a shopping mall and start shooting people? That’s a great idea…I’m surprised no one thought about it before now.

    And actually, there were plenty of mass killings in the 1930s and 1940s - nothing like a few World Wars to let the violent minded youth in society blow off some steam and get weeded out.

    And yes, there’s a right to bear arms - because maintaining a “well-regulated” militia is an important thing. That could mean a lot of things, but the founding fathers even saw fit to explicitly tie the concept of regulation into the deal.

  10. I might further add - when I first heard of this tragic incident, this is the first website I came to.

  11. no, a law against and to control the free -commercial- flow of weapons. I can’t see how the regulation of your beloved founding fathers can ever be reconciled with the free flow and deadly use of weapons in nowadays USA - sorry for sticking my nose in your business.

  12. Actually, I’m surprised (maybe I shouldn’t be) that nobody here in Salt Lake is talking about how lax the gun laws are here in Utah, even compared to other states. The sale of a gun can easily be done between two people: All the buyer has to do is “give their word” that they don’t have a criminal record, and all the seller has to do is keep a record of the serial number of the gun, and the name of the person they sold it to.

  13. I think the political climate is changing here in the USA; the presidential candidates for 2008 seem to be getting an early start because they can sense that everyone’s getting fed up with Dubya.

    We never should have gone into Iraq in the first place; I feel that the only thing we have accomplished is to make more people upset with America. We have created more terrorists.

    Does the world of speedskating hold a respite for me from what’s wrong with America? No way! Imagine a nation where Rummy and Cheney run unchecked, and every single decision is based on whether Halliburton gets the contract. If America’s government ever gets as bad as its speedskating federation, it will be like the fall of Rome.

  14. Hmmm… it’s not about guns. Actually in Canada there are tons and tons of guns — the place is full of hunters. But they’re often different kinds of guns and most importantly they don’t use them on each other! So many things, I think, converge in our culture: if you add the reality many people face with poverty, poor education, no access to health care, no adequate sources of support to deal with those things (in what’s supposed to be the land of plenty!) …to their feelings of desperation, envy, hopelessness and anger… to the war in Iraq and things like Grand Theft Auto, prime time entertainment programming like CSI and the news… you begin to get a sense of the discourse about violence. It’s prevalent and justifiable in the cultural images and in violent peoples’ minds. There’s this great theory in media studies called Cultivation Theory… that it’s not about change or media effects, but that the images and ideas we create create our world. If you look at our media content, it’s a whacked world we’re creating. Not you, Andrew, of course!

  15. the problem with rampant and random violence begins in the society that has bred wild animals instead of civilzed human beings. school shootings are probably the last thing you would have expected to ever worry about-it was practically inconceivible, a sort of crossing the line in senseless killings. now it happens all the time (or is an issue all the time, anyway). there are no boundaries anymore for anyone who just wants to kill people, and plenty of means for turning fantasy killing (like on video games, TV, in sickos’ conversations, etc.) into reality. blaming the problem on guns is burying heads in the sand. the world’s level of hideous evil is getting to be ridiculous now and the U.S. is in the thick of it. rebecky makes a good point with that Theory.

  16. Rebecky says there are tons of guns in Canada, but “they don’t use them on each other”.

    The students at W.R. Myers High School, Dawson College and École Polytechnique respectfully disagree.

  17. I’m shocked by your opinions.

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