the sjsu parking garage shooting — a kaddish —

I’ve never worried about the SJSU parking garages.  All these many years of night classes, of colleagues and students getting police escorts back to their cars at night — I’ve never once seen the necessity.  And I don’t see it now, either.

And yet, last night, while I was heading for my own car in the 7th Street Garage, there it was — one of those terrible incidents.  Not across the country, somewhere far far away.  But right across campus in the 10th Street Garage.  My phone buzzed not long afterwards. The new campus police alert system was awake and working — if not instantaneous. These days folks want their news at Twitter speeds.  This morning’s Spartan Daily article about the shooting seemed to focus more on the ‘slow’ alert system than it did on the event itself.

But here, more to the point, is another personal tragedy enacted in a public place.  Another reminder not only of the fragility of human life, but also of its capacity for rash impulsiveness. A reminder that while some events are random, others are volitional.  That while most ‘news’ takes place far far away in places most Americans have never been and never thought about — from Tunisia to Bahrain to Sendai, Japan — ‘things’ both large and small happen here at home as well.

Universities are places where we try to put an emphasis on rationality. Analysis. Assessing costs and benefits. Probable outcomes.  And yes, uncertainty principles. And maybe this last one is the most relevant regarding incidents like this.  But surely if the university teaches us nothing much at all, it stands at least for critical thinking. The idea that our behavior matters.  That it has consequences. That we need to apply due diligence to the hard decisions — the life and death decisions — that we make.

Rumors fly regarding motives.  Names have not yet been released.  But this, like so many other events that end in bloodshed serves to remind us what we all were supposed to learn at our mother’s knee.  Use your words. Collect more data. Question assumptions. Consider the evidence. And maybe, for good measure, turn the other cheek and walk away.

A kaddish for those as yet unnamed “Three dead in campus shooting.”

About mira

Mira Z. Amiras is Professor of Comparative Religious Studies and founder of the Middle East Studies Program at San Jose State University. She is past-president of the Society for the Anthropology of Consciousness, and has served on the Executive Council of the American Anthropological Association. She is co-founder, with Ovid Jacob, of Beit Malkhut, a study group in Jewish sacred text. She’s most attached to the creatures of her body and her household — first and foremost, her kids, of course: Michael and Rayna — and then the other folks large and small of various species, including Roshi and Vlad, a whole lot of hummingbirds, the old parrot who lives next door, and a beautiful garden that does what it will.

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2 Responses to the sjsu parking garage shooting — a kaddish —

  1. erin says:

    What Mira doesn’t mention is that while her phone was buzzing with the news of a shooting in an SJSU parking garage, she was sitting in another SJSU parking garage nearby, talking on that phone. This tragedy for three anonymous people dead in yet another headline like so many others is not just about the larger points Mira makes above; it’s also the intensely personal story of how grateful I am that Mira parks in a different garage.

    A Kaddish for the dead from Mira, and a prayer of thanks from me that Mira is still here to write these Kaddishim.

  2. Pingback: daily kaddish: for the sjsu parking lot 3, and thanks

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