Some Musings on the Tragedy at Virginia Tech

Squeezed April 17, 2007

Three thousand miles away from the action, I feel for the loss of over thirty young adults on the Virginia Tech campus. It’s a national tragedy, and so it should be.

This inquiring mind, though, also wants to know about what drove one of the those young adults to turn on his contemporaries.

I don’t know what demon would drive Cho Seung-Hui, an intelligent English major, less than a month away from the rest of his life, to literally throw his life away in a flurry of gunpowder and bullets aimed at others.

I’d like to know what was going through his mind as he wrote two plays that just drip with vitriol. True, Shakespeare it’s not, although “Richard McBeef” does have a key plot point from Hamlet in it (character’s father is killed by step-father, whom the character hates with a vengeance). Although, as Derek Pegritz points out, taken out of context they may not have that effect, taken in the context of what happened (Stephen King, as macabre as his novels are, is otherwise a well-adjusted person), it doesn’t seem an unreasonable conclusion. And, it’s the ONLY window we have into this guy’s thought processes.

The fact is that I want to know what went through this guy’s mind. Murders like this don’t just happen out of the clear blue sky. They take months, even years, to develop. But something pushed this kid off the deep end.

We here in Hawaii still remember the Xerox murders, where a disgruntled employee of Xerox took the lives of his immediate boss and six co-workers. It came out afterward that Byran Uyesugi, the gunman who is now serving a life sentence, was quiet and reticent on the outside, and raised goldfish and koi. But deep underneath was a seething anger that exploded that day in 1999.

And not too long ago was not a mass murder, but a Texas man who kidnapped and killed a ten-year-old girl with apparent intent to EAT her. I blogged about it here. The disturbing thing here was that he was a documented mental illness case, and blogged about his struggles and his fantasies that were getting more and more weird.

We do know that Cho was a loner, and those who knew him did not know him well. A square peg trying to fit into a world of round holes. I can only imagine what kind of anger he had in him, which built up until, with no other outlet, it exploded out the muzzle of a Glock 9mm.

Sometimes the shyest, most reticent people can be the most dangerous people of all. And, in my view, often these are the people whom society needs to help the most.

3 Responses to “Some Musings on the Tragedy at Virginia Tech”

  1. Eric Osaki Says:

    It started as a spark. Followed by more and more sparks. Together, they were a flame burning, but it is almost out – for now. It has become like a piece of charcoal, hot and dim for now. It burns in you. If it is held in, it smolders and eats away at your humanity from the inside. The longer you hold on to it, the more it consumes you. If it is not acceptable to have a mental instability or illness in your culture, you don’t seek treatment for it early enough. And it continues to burn in you. It is a rage, a fire, it is the pressure of the world on you and it has to get out.

    You stay away from everyone who you blame for it and you shun those who want to help you because only you can understand this pain that has been inflicted upon only you. You don’t show your feelings because they will be hurt even more. You stay alone because you know you won’t be hurt. You were a victim for far too long and now you think of ways to get revenge. You think of every way that you can get back at them for what they have done to you. Knives, guns, bombs, pain, horror – anything that will deal out the pain that has been dealt to you. And yet it burns in you. If you are so lucky that you blow a little steam off, then the pain subsides, but it is still there and it is still eating at you…

    You must take revenge and you start to act on your revenge. If you can not be the hero, then you will be infamous – an antihero! You will get the revenge on those who put you in this place – you will deal pain for the pain that was dealt to you. Only you understand this pain and it is up to you to act on it because every time you go to someone in power, they either laugh it off or they tell you that it is all in your mind. If it was all in your mind, then why would it burn in you so much, why would it hurt like a real physical pain? It is time to scheme, plan and research your revenge.

    So now you know that even those in power must be destroyed because they don’t understand you. Authority is meant to control you, not bring those who tormented you to justice and you work within its system. You continue to plan, to scheme and you prepare for the day to act. The thought of what they did to you so long ago – and yet unavenged – is no longer a spark, an ember or a small flame – it is much more. If they could peer into your soul, they would see that the fire extends beyond your physical being. You have prepared for your day and when that day comes, it will be a good day to die. The clock is ticking and you wait for the trigger or even a day on a calendar. You will have your revenge.

    The spark is anger. Another spark is inequality. Another is misunderstanding. Another is hate. Another is racism. Another is intolerance. Another is a cruel joke played on you. Another is the constant teasing – calling you slug. Another is someone stealing something from you at school. Another is the constant competition and the people at the top who gloat all the time. Another is the group that stole all the books for the paper you are writing out of the reference section of the library that no one is supposed to take. Another is the teasing of the jocks – the constant teasing of the jocks. Another is a racist slur. Another is the rich kids getting away with cheating – again. Another is the way the “hot girls” got together to ask you to dance just to embarass you. Another is the way that most people know you by that hideous nickname that was branded on you. And the flame gets bigger. Another is the beating you took from the bully in the boy scout troop who was bullied himself by those in your older sister’s class. Another is the competition your mother has with her siblings that forces you to be someone you are not. Another and another and another and it burns and it smolders and it consumes.

    Some want to commit suicide. Some want to take revenge. Some seek the refuge found in a faith. Some commit the revenge they want. Some seek professional help from someone who understands. Some see a mirror of themselves on television and decide to break the cycle. Some continue to let that flame burn bright. Some let the pain kill them from the inside, dying that slow unhappy death of low self esteem.

    The asian culture is a pressure cooker. Add to that slights and insults from people who don’t want to understand foreigners and people who are not native english speakers. Add to that the pressure cooker that is college. Add to that the idea that the rich people get away with everything in your eyes. Simmer, shake and set loose.

    I understand Mr. Cho too well because I could have been him, too. I wanted my revenge on those who hurt me and raped me and stole from me. I had a list of those who would feel the new world order. I would have my revenge on them. My classmates, my relatives, my fellow scouts, all of the bullies in the world.

    And I never had to act on that. I survived Punahou. I survived college. I survived a lot of things. The one thing that Mr. Cho has done is made me realize that it is time to set all of those slights and pains free. Even the rape and beatings. For me to take revenge on another is for my ego to go beyond the bounds of what is in God’s domain. those previous slights and pains are my karma and how I act about them will not only determine how I live in my next lifetimes, but will affect how I live in this one. In all of the emotional turmoil, Mr. Cho became what he was fighting against – he became the bully.

    I have empathy for all those who feel the way Mr. Cho did. As a victim in the past, I have empathy for all those who were affected by his way of getting revenge. I have sympathy for the survivors and for those who perished and those who are forever changed by his actions. For now, may there be peace in the world. For the future, may there be peace in the world.

  2. Keith Says:

    I have…absolutely no response to that. Very well put, Eric. My only question….what is this excellent piece of writing doing on MY blog? :)

  3. Freshly Squeezed Says:

    Musings on Virginia Tech #2: The Need to be Understood

    It’s a fundamental human need…the need to be understood. If this need is not perceived to be met, one will go to any length to achieve it. Even going so far as to send one’s manifesto to NBC, before going…

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