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April 20, 2007

"...which governs least"

Roy Meachum

"You have vandalized my heart, raped my soul and torched my conscience. Thanks to you, I die like Jesus Christ to inspire generations of the weak and the defenseless people."

Those are the words that gunman Cho Seung-Hui proudly puffed on the video mailed to NBC Monday, during the lull of his massacre of fellow Virginia Tech students and faculty. The statement was both a condemnation of the system and a call for revolution. Comparing himself to Jesus Christ simply followed the path marched down before by a slew of demagogues.

This was the week that Mr. Cho had the rapt attention of the Western World's masses. On the other side of the globe, insurgents, as they have been misnamed, trashed many more innocent lives than Virginia Tech's 33, which included the murderer who envisioned himself a martyr. The videotape, not incidentally, was reportedly made days before he terrorized the campus where he had reached the status of being a senior.

How the emotionally screwed-up 23-year-old managed to last so long on that campus has to do with the government intervening where bureaucrats have no right to be, not under a system founded during the time Thomas Jefferson was the reigning philosopher. The patron saint of liberals summed up his convictions: "That government is best which governs least."

When stories about the massacre seemed to be losing their sway over the media, the Supreme Court provided another example of how America has veered from Mr. Jefferson's philosophy. The justices, by a single vote, decided the federal establishment was permitted to extend its reach back, into abortion.

I firmly support the notion that all medical procedures, including abortion, should be determined by the physician with the patient's assent.

Let's face reality: Only the poor and distraught will be affected by restoring America's prohibition on abortions; the rich can always buy "cooperation," for whatever they really want to do. Upper-crust clinics and their compliant doctors will still perform the procedure, which they can label something else.

In the event, as I said, medical decisions should be entrusted to qualified caregivers and on an individual basis. Doctors and nurses are schooled in ethics that bids them "Do no harm." Pontificating politicians simply have no business in the operating room, whatever their personal belief.

Similarly, bureaucrats should stay out of colleges' administrative policy. Sifting through the overabundance of information about the incident at Virginia Tech this week, it became quickly clear that 31 people, of various ages and backgrounds, would still be around if the university had been fully informed on the danger Mr. Cho presented. They weren't, thanks to privacy laws.

Bureaucracy is so far out of control that parents are not allowed to see their children's grades unless the students approve. As it is, despite spending money, big money, for tuition and board, fathers and mothers are banned from information they need to determine how boys and girls are developing and keeping their promise.

In Mr. Cho's case, we are left to wonder whether his parents knew he had stopped going to class, although their dry-cleaning and laundry business supported him. The family does not seem to lack for intelligence: a daughter attends Princeton.

You cannot imagine the man and woman, who left Korea to give their kids a better life, would not care about their son's medical condition as well as his grades. Furthermore, I have no doubt, knowing other immigrants, they would have done something, anything, to help and protect their child under all circumstances.

Knowing what we learned in the wake of the massacre, the possibility reaches probability that every other member of his family was thoroughly traumatized and feeling threatened by the sick young man. How could they get relief: the privacy laws say he did not have to go to doctors unless he wanted to? He went once under duress, according to reports.

But unless his parents had been called by the doctor, they could make no contribution to his analysis and treatment; informing them about his bizarre behavior and test results was adamantly forbidden. Even law enforcement officials required warrants to obtain the information, even after his death.

Courts have spoken to the point. Judges have found in favor of students who claimed their rights had been violated under law that trampled into the dust the principles of Thomas Jefferson about "governing least."

Twice this week we have witnessed examples of Big Brother government, which should be anathema to people of all political convictions, right and left, conservative and liberal. Hypocrites are not included; they pick and choose which bureaucrats and what role they should play in everybody's life.

Speaking of people talking one way and acting another: Virginia Tech's Distinguished Professor Nikki Giovanni delivered a stirring elegy for the dead at the campus commemoration attended by President George W. Bush and his wife. The well-known poet was widely praised for capturing in her words the sense of tragic loss at the school.

In the midst of all the protest against the level of violence in this country, exemplified by the greatest number of murders, ever, at a college, Ms. Giovanni certainly did not boast about her admiration for the most successful performer in the history of "gangsta rap," the modern music with lyrics that encourage shooting, brutality and other forms of violence.

While on the Virginia Tech faculty, she dedicated her 1997 "Love Poems" to Tupac Shakur who survived one attempt on his life only to fall to murderer's bullets the next time, the year before the book came out. As proof of her admiration and devotion, Nikki Giovanni had tattooed on her forearm "Thug Life," the same phrase he had inked on his stomach.

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