The University of Virginia saw a practical joke turn into relative hysteria recently when technology turned a harmless discussion into campus wide panic. The subject of the jest was alcohol, which just should not be joked about on a college campus (or potentially on Capitol Hill… but I digress). Specifically, one student mentioned to her friend that she was at the campus police station because there was a random raid on campus searching dorms for the illusive underage drinker and their stash of alcoholic potables.  What started out as a private joke was then shared with a few others, and then a few others, and in just moments the fear and panic of a potential raid saw alcohol being dumped throughout the campus (who knew so many college students drank?)

This hysteria could be seen as a joke gone too far and hilariously so. But, as I often do, I think about this reaction in a larger context. I cannot help but think that in moments of crisis there is a sheer need to act and react without true thought. Hysteria, as is human, turns to a need for self-preservation but often in the moments following a crisis the actions are clouded by misjudgment. And now, for the political connection (shocking I know):

Think about the reaction to gun violence in this country. When a tragic incident like Sandy Hook or the Aurora Colorado shooting, to name a few, arises, the nation panics. Get rid of the alcohol now and that will solve the problem! Or, more apt in this, get rid of the weapons! That will clear the problem! Then, upon reflection, (as I’m sure a few pouting Freshmen had when they realized their stash of alcohol they had worked so hard to smuggle was gone), the hysteria seems almost comical in its reactionary disproportion. A bit of thought, a little research, and a look at the RA station would have seen that no raids were taking place. But, in the same way that so many students cleared their haul to make sure that nothing occurred, the citizens of this country may be giving up rights to arms that they can never get back.

What the UVA practical joke teaches is more than just a funny way to get a reaction on a college campus. It is a microcosm of sorts for the national reaction to incidents of tragedy, fear, or crisis. In a moment of weakness we give things up, quickly and without true thought for the consequences. The result, like the alcohol in the dumpster, are powers and rights that may never be able to be regained.