Tuesday, September 23, 2008

Kauhajoki Tragedy

I would never have imagined it, that something so violent could happen in Kauhajoki in times of peace. Kauhajoki is not far from my home place of Juonikyla, that I left so many years ago to immigrate to Canada with my parents and sister, Katja. Here I am at one of the "busy" intersections in Juonikyla (or should I say the intersection in Juonikyla?) with some of my cousins and my friend, Anna, who was born in Canada but now lives in Helsinki.

My sisters and I went shopping "downtown" Kauhajoki that summer of 2001. I bought that big yellow bag that you see hanging from my shoulder. Those are some of our bags on the bench, not a homeless person curled up, although my sister's shoes make it look like there's a person there.

My idyllic memories of smalltown Kauhajoki, however, were shattered this morning by the terrible news of the killings in Finland at a technical school, ironically called The School of Hospitality. I was sitting at the kitchen table, munching on my just-baked manoushi pie and enjoying a cup of coffee, when I heard the radio announcement. The newscaster only mentioned that this school killing happened in Finland, so when I opened my computer and received news from my cousin, Ari, that the tragedy happened in Kauhajoki, I was really shocked. Kauhajoki is such a small place. It is so quiet there. It is off the beaten track. What a terrible way to put this obscure place on the worldmap.

I send my deepest condolences to all the families who lost loved ones, many who were young women, and to the traumatized survivors, their families, and to the whole community. I can imagine how they are feeling, so much death around them. Such senseless violence that visited them, by their own hand. It must be terribly heavy on the heart to have this "home-grown" tragedy.

I read that the killer had copies of the Columbine videos and they were his favorites. He lived in a world that extended beyond the boundaries of Kauhajoki. Maybe all this media attention which sensationalizes these sorts of school-boy-on-classmates violence has to stop. It seems to get them the attention they crave, in their small, twisted minds. Posting their own videos beforehand on YouTube to ensure more media notoreity. Sadly, the killer was probably "an average guy". Your neighbour's son. Your brother. Your classmate.

Of course, access to handguns, is dismissed as having nothing to do with tragedies like this. Or the glorification of guns and the increasing normalization of militarization and of war as honorable. Of course, access to handguns is not the only determining factor, as many things work together to create such unbalanced thinking and acts, but surely, if one did not have access to a handgun the ensuing violence would be on a lesser scale?


marja-leena said...

I opened my computer this morning to CBC News and this horrific event was the top news! Also on Helsingin Sanomat! That you have been in this town hits home even more you. I agree that easy possession of guns, violent videos and the glorification of violence in the media would have an effect, especially on an unstable personality. Who knows what else, an unhappy home life? It's shocking that little Finland has had two such tragedies in a year.

northshorewoman said...

yes, I can't imagine how much suffering everyone there is going through, I even have great empathy for the parents of the killer. This is too much to comprehend. One of the news reports quote a student as saying he was calm, an average guy with lots of friends. But how he learned to hide this horrible thing he was hatching for so many years. So many questions, so much grief put upon many.

rauna said...

Only after these horrific news (that draw tears in my eyes every time I read about it in the paper - and I didn't even go to the Finnish newspapers online), I learned that Finland has very liberal gun laws and the third highest gun ownership in the world! And I had thought - or rather, never really thought about gun control and laws in Finland - that things would be more under control; that it wouldn't be in the same league with gun-toting USA... And I grew up in Finland not knowing these facts. I do know that people own especially hunting rifles (including my dad who hunts moose) and that not too long ago, they came up with a new law that made it obligatory to keep one's guns behind locked doors - to prevent others accessing them, not yourself of course. The Kauhajoki shooting comes right after a string of shootings in Toronto, in my new home town. What strikes me always that when we talk about gun violence, we don't talk about gender. Myriam Miedzian, in her book Boys Will Be Boys. Breaking the Link between Masculinity and Violence talks about the enormous resistance to the focus on the fact that 'most acts of [physical] violence are committed by men.' Her argument is that without focusing on this reality, we cannot start addressing the problem. Has there ever been a female gunman (or a gunwoman) opening a fire in a school?

northshorewoman said...

Rauna, your comments are very thought-provoking. I will look up that book that you mention. There is so much resistance to change things that are so ingrained in society, even after they are shown to cause so much trouble and grief. There are too many examples of this. What are we teaching our boys? There is a lot to think about regarding violence in society, especially male violence; let's hope that some of that thinking moves into action for change.

Anonymous said...

That appropriate school lies behind those trees in that picture of you. Sorry for bad english but I am from Finland!