On Tuesday, Le Monde (Paris) published a commentary, translated below, on the massacre that occurred Monday morning on the campus of Virginia Tech in Blacksburg, Virginia.  --  France's most prestigious daily noted the inability of the U.S. president to raise the question of arms sales, and observed that "After the tragedy, voices were raised to deplore that the professors and students were not authorized to carry weapons, because one of them would have been able to take out the killer.  With arguments like this, America will not be bringing its violence under control any time soon." ...


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[Translated from Le Monde (Paris)]

Opinion

Editorial

AMERICAN TRAGEDY

Le Monde (Paris)
April 17, 2007

http://www.lemonde.fr/web/article/0,1-0@2-3232,36-897110,0.html

The slaughter at Virginia Tech University forces American society once again to confront itself, its violence, the fetichism of arms that a part of its population harbors, the excesses of a youth dominated by the double tyranny of abundance and competition. It would unjust and above all untrue to reduce the United States to the image that is repeatedly given to it by the fits of murderous fury that isolated individuals give in to. But events of this sort are exceptional elsewhere, whereas it often happens that they arise to disfigure the "American dream."

All that George Bush found to say, after he had expressed his condolences, was that "schools should be places of security, a sanctuary devoted to study." For the Republican president and former governor of Texas, champion of America's midwestern and southern states where "prairie" culture is maintained, the Blacksburg massacre calls attention to nothing other than the tragic aberration of an individual. In Mr. Bush's eyes, the question of arms sales in the United States is not asked and is not to be asked.

There is no reason to be surprised, since the leader of the American executive is supported by a party that went so far as to refuse, in 2004, to extend the prohibition of sales of assault weapons that had been voted by a Democratic Congress in 1994, when Bill Clinton was president. The latter had had the courage to stand up to the firearms lobby, but had been forced to limit his ambition to two measures that were certainly called for, but that were modest: the obligation imposed on gun sellers to verify that buyers have had no run-ins with the law, and the prohibition on the sale of assault weapons.

Firearms are such a part of American ideology that the Democrats, though they are inclined to think that the worship of individual freedom should be balanced with the common good, only approach this subject warily. During the last presidential campaign, the Democratic candidate, John Kerry, refrained from taking a stronger position. Pressure from the National Rifle Association, the most powerful lobby in the United States, able to organize local campaigns against a representative or senator hostile to its views, explains in large part this spinelessness.

In any case, in a country where "the right to keep and bear arms" is inscribed in the Constitution and where the number of firearms is estimated at 192 million, the problem is not only that of a group of special interests. After the tragedy, voices were raised to deplore that the professors and students were not authorized to carry weapons, because one of them would have been able to take out the killer. With arguments like this, America will not be bringing its violence under control any time soon.

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Translated by Mark K. Jensen
Associate Professor of French
Department of Languages and Literatures
Pacific Lutheran University
Tacoma, WA 98447-0003
Phone: 253-535-7219
Home page: http://www.plu.edu/~jensenmk/
E-mail: This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.