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

Squeezed April 19, 2007

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 on a killing spree.

It appears Cho had some challenges in that department, because it came out that he had long-standing speech difficulties, which troubled his parents even from a young age and apparently was fodder for his classmates’ unkind remarks.

I can definitely make out a pronounced lisp in the video clips when I listen to them on YouTube, that I don’t think the slight Korean accent accounts for. I also notice a definite lack of nasal resonance and, of course, a monotone. But I can understand what he says.

Reading this, the picture seems a bit clearer. Here was a young boy, who had difficulty making himself understood even in his native language. Uproot this kid from his native country, and place him in another country, where he has to learn a new language with a speech mechanism that doesn’t work perfectly. Talk about a double whammy. So what would come out would be heavily accented and colored by his speech impediment. Imagine what kids (being kids) would do.

It seems to me that he may have just “given up” and clammed up. Why speak at all when anything coming out of your mouth will get you teased to death?

Regan Wilder, 21, who attended Virginia Tech, high school and middle school with Cho, said she was in several classes with Cho in high school, including advanced-placement calculus and Spanish.

She said he walked around with his head down and almost never spoke. And when he did, it was “a real low mutter, like a whisper.” …

She said she was sure Cho probably was picked on in middle school, but so was everyone else.

And it didn’t seem as if English was the problem for him, she said. If he didn’t speak English well, there were several other Korean students he could have reached out to for friendship, but he didn’t, she said.

If only there were one person who would reach out and make an effort to understand him. If only a person had introduced him, as an example, to Moses. Here was a man who when he received his call, pleaded with God to reconsider:

But Moses said to the LORD, “Since I speak with faltering lips, why would Pharaoh listen to me?” Then the LORD said to Moses, “See, I have made you like God to Pharaoh, and your brother Aaron will be your prophet. Exodus 6:30-7:1

Yet, we all know the rest of the story. If only someone were an Aaron to Cho’s Moses.

I mean, I don’t buy this “sticks and stones” crap. Names hurt just as much. I know from experience. Also, Eric created a long comment on my last entry on Cho Seung-Hui. It’s worth reading. Do it. And read his follow-on entry for the happy ending (we hope…contact his kids in 2057 to know for sure).

It’s a reminder to us all to be kind to our neighbor, even those who are troubled, because there, but for fortune, may go you and I.

And the life you save may be your own.

One Response to “Musings on Virginia Tech #2: The Need to be Understood”

  1. Alice Says:

    I actually thought the perceived issue with Cho’s pronunciation was his Korean accent, after I read this line years ago:

    “Finally, after the teacher threatened him with an F for participation, Cho started to read in a strange, deep voice that sounded ‘like he had something in his mouth,’ Davids said.”

    I thought the “something in his mouth” was how a Korean accent might sound to someone unfamiliar to it. It’s definitely a lot more nasal sounding than the American accent.

    I definitely don’t have the Korean accent, although in the recent years I’ve been trying to develop it when speaking Korean (because my Korean tends to sound incredibly American).

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