April 20, 2007

Virginia Tech

I saw this article posted on a random blog. Thanks to the owner of Duly Consider for wording this event in a way that resonated with me. With so much finger pointing and blame going on it's important to remember there were hundreds of chances for both other students and the institution itself to have taken an interest in Cho's behaviour. Working in a college has opened my eyes to how important it is to be active in the community to prevent the slipping through the cracks syndrome that often follows quiet withdrawn students.
I'm thinking of all those quite kids I went to school with who you knew were hurting or being hurt. And whether it was due to childish insecurity, a lack of compassion or just simply being "influenced" by our peers into someone who is "better" than someone else....we are all part of the equation that allowed someone like Cho to slip down to the level he ended up at.

Cho claimed he was pissed off and that his killing others and himself was a final statement of his anger. The psycho-babblists said he was "potentially a budding paranoid schizophrenic which sometimes leads to psychosis"; he was possibly "bipolar-which used to be called 'manic-depressive' which sometimes leads to a lashing out at oneself or others." What is a shame is that he found it necessary to give up and throw in the hat by killing those who he felt ignored him. America says the great shame is simply the death of 32 innocents. The real shame is that anyone would feel he had to commit this singularly effective act as a cry for help.

That people died, including Cho, is a misfortune, but the greater misfortune is society's unwillingness to accept responsibility and to change in response. Usually, as in Arthur Miller's "Death of a Salesman" or Franz Kafka's "Metamorphosis", these victims of society's sickness wilt and die in a pathetic, quiet downward spiral. That, in "Metamorphosis" the family didn't notice their loved one had become a huge bug as a result of their neglect, is not a unique occurrence, but a drama written to illustrate the normal cause of death.

Meanwhile, in an equally pathetic denial, society simply mourns over the loss of loved ones, and goes through the motions of weeping and carrying candles while failing to address the real killer, themselves.

Refusing to change, society eventually goes on as if nothing ever happened, considering it a freak accident of one person's mental disturbance. The parents of Cho, after a brief period of mourning, will go on with their lives despite the never ending reminder of their son's final cry. Meanwhile, we continue to send people like Cho into war instead of college and their cries go unnoticed as their anger becomes redirected at a false enemy. Politicians continue to create fake adversaries against whom soldiers can masturbate their torment, while the real enemy is a society that let's the rich profit from this misdirection.

Is it society's fault for letting those with power continue their abuse? Or is it the victim's fault, those 32 and Cho, for having patiently waited for a solution that would likely never come. It is a tolerable discontent says the common man. "Good things come to those who wait," they will say to their children, having never received good things for waiting, knowing their children will never get good things either. Meanwhile, they will point at the exceptional rags-to-riches success story that has become the perverse mythology by which America lives. America alone, no; but the US has become the symbol for the age old illness that Doctors will only treat with aspirin and Prozac.

How many have quiet sons who have gone off to war to vent their frustration on the stranger foe? How many parents quietly know their sons just secretly want to kill, so they give them a faceless target and call that the enemy? How many others will blame the killing on misguided machismo or will express indignation at those who would dare identify with Jesus Christ before their suicides?

We will never know how many children live in the shadows of their successful siblings, or will writhe at the frustration of never satisfying the expectations of their parents, or will never get society to listen to their unique genius? We will never know how many great minds are wasted by a society that is threatened by potential greatness while overly rewarding inherited greatness?

It has happened before and it will happen again. Revolutions are made up of such people as Cho. If they win, people will call them heroes and possibly elect them President of a new nation. If they lose they will only bathe in their pathos at the existence of such failures, not knowing the greatest failures were those who did nothing to prevent the inevitable outrage of the few.

Many will outwardly proclaim outrage and discount Cho's final manifesto as the ravings of a lunatic, while many others will inwardly identify with his stated frustration. But they will simply swallow their anger and nod their heads in agreement with the judgment of Cho. White academes will describe him as "lacking affect" while those of Asian dissent will quietly see themselves in his gentle eyes and quiet, unexpressed pain juxtaposed as a yin-yang against his final image of outward expression.

Cho is no hero and neither are his victims. But let us lament them both as victims of those of us who remain and fail to change that which caused such a tragedy. Let us honor them by finally facing the enemy within, the enemy of acceptance of mediocrity in ourselves and our leaders, and the denial of the subtle wishes of all children to be loved, honored and promoted for their ideas and work.

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You've done it now Danger Dan!!!