Apr 18, 2007 in Current Events
The country is still reeling in shock after an angry, disturbed and depressed Asian kid shot 32 of his fellow students and professors at Virginia Tech. One of the most frustrating things about this case is that it is not clear exactly how this could have been prevented. The warning signs were obvious to anyone who encountered him: the vacant gaze, the violent writings, the undeniable creepiness. And it wasn’t as if no one had acted upon it. Roommates, teachers and the university itself had all taken action — repeated suggestions to go into counseling, a forced stay at a mental hospital, disciplinary actions for behavior…
But ultimately this kid made a conscious decision to bottle up all that anger inside of him and let it all out in a premeditated act of senseless violence. Mental illness certainly played a role — between shootings, the killer sent a package to NBC with a long, incomprehensible rant against rich kids. But unlike Columbine, there were apparently no school bullies, neglectful parents, or dysfunctional institutions that may have contributed to this tragedy. The only person responsible for this massacre is Cho himself.
Of course, that hasn’t stopped people from trying to play the blame game. Already, certain demagogues are blaming video games and the teaching of evolution for inspiring this rampage. The only thing that’s missing is Marilyn Manson.
Things like this are just a little personal for me, for at one time I was an angry, depressed and withdrawn twenty-something. While I can certainly understand what Cho’s day-to-day state of mind might have been like, the difference is that I didn’t snap and kill anyone and I eventually grew out of it. (I’m starting to think that time, maturity and experience are the best anti-depressants.)
It’s practically a rite of passage to be young, angry and at least somewhat depressed. The world does that to you. Eventually you grow, and it passes. The sad thing about this incident is that — just like Columbine — every angry, depressed or withdrawn young male is going to be treated like a potential murderer. That’s not to say that more aggressive action shouldn’t be taken on behalf of people like Cho. It’s just that the people in charge won’t always know where to draw the line between violently disturbed and just clinically depressed.
In reference to the killer’s Korean background, I couldn’t help but think of the films of popular South Korean director Chan-wook Park, most notably the “vengeance trilogy” films Oldboy and Sympathy for Mr. Vengeance. It turns out that according to a New York Times blog, several of the photos Cho sent to NBC bear an uncanny resemblance to scenes from Oldboy.
Park has said that the vengeance theme in his films are meant to display the futility of revenge, and how it destroys the lives of everyone involved. (In Sympathy for Mr. Vengeance, all of the main characters are dead at the end of the film). That’s certainly an apt description of what happened here. Nevertheless, it’ll only be a matter of time until someone blames violent movies and Chan-wook Park for this tragedy.
And so, on behalf of every angry young man, asian film fan, Virginia Tech massacre victim and family member, I say to Cho Seung-Hui: Thanks asshole. I hope you burn in hell.