Wednesday, April 18, 2007

Random Thoughts on VTU

Cho Seung-Hui. A name that will forever evoke thoughts of sickening terror. It’s difficult to even find a place to begin with all of this. Have you read Cho’s plays? Sick. The majority of the comments left about his blog are spot on. The plays are flooded with warning signs. How exactly does a young man that display all of these warning signs slip through the cracks? That is one social psychology study that is worth investigating. Maybe it is the notion that someone else will report him? Maybe it is the notion that he will do something small scale (e.g. theft, assault) before he actually goes off the deep end and does something to harm a lot of people? Maybe people were afraid to report him? And as his classmate said, there isn’t exactly a system in place to report people that you think are crazy and might be harmful to society… at least not without some sort of concrete evidence. And the psyche isn’t exactly concrete. So what exactly could have been done? It was reported that Cho had spoken of suicide and spent a night or two inpatient. It was also reported that he was being investigated for stalking a female student. But when someone is not acting out in a physical manner, what can you do? While Cho’s personality was bursting with awkwardness and rage, he was contained on the outside... disturbingly quiet. The say the ones to watch are the quiet ones. Cho’s writings were an outlet for his rage. But without real life threats of violence in those writings, what are the authorities to do? Can you simply hold a young man because someone else thinks they are disturbed?

Other questions come to mind as well. Although not a popular question, I can’t help but think about it. How can a small young man with two hand guns shoot close to 50 individuals without being confronted? How can he do all of this and chain doors and windows without someone attempting to stop him? It’s an easy question to ask; but not an easy one to answer. Fight or flight. What would you do? What would I do? Fight or flight? If someone came into your office and started going from office to office and shooting people, would you hit the floor, run, or fight? I’d like to think I would fight. I’m a big guy and can handle myself. If Cho came by my office, I’d like to think I would have attempted to reach for his arm or stabbed him with a pair of scissors. A colleague of mine said that heroes don’t really have heroic tendencies; they simply have this ability to recognize situations for what they are. Those that flight typically revert to a state of shock; they don’t believe that what is happening is truly happening. That makes sense. That is why I am not really sure I would be a hero. It’s likes telling someone who has a unique problem that you know how they feel when you truly don’t. Simply put, you don’t know how you would react until you are in that situation; nothing can simulate something like this.

So how do you profile a mass killer? A student killer? And does it matter? Can you really report a profile and expect action to be taken? Can you do this in a work setting without fear of a lawsuit? The answer, most likely, and sadly enough, is no.

Enough about Cho. The only good thing I can truly say about him is he saved the U.S. taxpayers a dump truck of money by putting that 20 cent piece of lead through his brain… thank you Cho. The only way I would trade that for a live Cho is if I knew the trial would be quick and the family members of each of the victims got to throw a bucket of water on him before they flipped the switch and sent him to the depths of hell.

On to the University’s response. It was inadequate. If two people are murdered in a campus dorm and you only have a “person of interest” in hand, you cancel classes for the day until the situation can be resolved. The question is, if the University thinks it was so right in its response, would it respond the same way if a similar circumstance were to present itself in the future? I seriously doubt it. The instant the University President was notified that two students had been murdered in a University dorm, he should have sent an email to students canceling classes. The response was insensitive and inadequate.

That being said, let’s all just wait a few weeks before America starts pointing fingers. Let’s remember. Let’s grieve. Let’s console those affected. America has this culture of finger pointing that has become truly sickening. America has become the friend that is not truly happy unless they are upset about something. Otherwise, God forbid, it is a day without news.

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