I haven't been able to talk much about the Virginia Tech massacre. Some tragedies are too big for my mind to wrap around; all that registers at first is numbness, and my brain refuses to think about it. Then a few days later, the wave engulfs me, and it's all I can think about.
The wave finally hit me this morning. I was reading all the news stories I could find before I had to head to work, shaking a little from I-don't-know-what--grief? anger? shock?--and all the way during my drive, I couldn't stop thinking about what had happened. Specifically, what had made Cho Seung-Hui snap. I still can't stop thinking about it. There will likely never be a satisfactory answer to this, which doesn't mean my brain still won't make the attempt.
But the one thing that my mind can
wrap around and react to meaningfully is the way the media has latched onto his writings, and the way they're attempting to present Cho's work as some sort of reliable barometer for his bugfuck insane homicidal rage. In fact, some of his work was apparently so disturbing, Lucinda Roy, one of his professors, brought them to the attention of the police
Roy was so disturbed by them she went to the police and counselors "and everywhere else, and they would say, but there's nothing explicit here. He's not actually saying he's going to kill someone."
"The threats seemed to be underneath the surface," she said. "They were not explicit and that was the difficulty the police had."
"My argument was that he seemed so disturbed that we needed to do something about this," Roy said.
You know what? Even knowing what happened, I think the police did the right thing in letting Cho go. Hindsight: what a bitch.
Look, many people have morbid imaginations. You want to talk sick, wrong imaginations? When I was a child, I used to think up and write horror stories all the time. Some of them involved thinly-disguised people I didn't like biting it in particularly nasty ways. Some of these people were even family members and classmates. Nowadays, I still enjoy coming up with and writing really violent fiction, but I've completely outgrown my need to take out my resentment and aggression on real-life people disguised in a fictional setting. I did what I did back then as a proxy for agency, which is no longer quite the problem for me as a 29-year-old the way it was when I was 9. Once I had more power over my life and the directions I wanted it to go, I didn't need to resort to fiction.
Here's the key point: fiction provides a safe haven for lashing out. Teenagers are especially notorious for coming up with violent, tragic stories and poems, and there's a good reason for that.
All of this is a long-winded way to say: Cho's writing did not provide anything even close to reliable indicators of what awaited the students and professors at Virginia Tech on Monday. The vast majority of people who come up with terribly-written blood-drenched pieces of work don't go on to become mass murderers.
Which is why the connections CNN and other news outlets are trying to make between Cho's work and his killing rampage make me squirm like an earthworm a hot sidewalk. The implication seems to be "Let's look into somebody's fantasy lives and attempt to convict them BEFORE they do anything." In fact, it's distinctly Minority Report-ish, only instead of the Department of Pre-Crime, it's the Department for the Analysis of Poorly-Written Angst-Ridden Violent Fiction.
I have a bad, bad feeling that overzealous administrators will seize on this completely meaningless indicator and start scrutinizing students' work for so-called danger signs--more than they do already. Yes, Cho wrote a lot of disturbingly violent fiction. And yes, some dangerously deranged people indulge in similar sorts of writing. That's not indicative of murderous tendencies. Just because the pavement's wet isn't a sign that it rained, capisce
? Other things, like the stalking complaints, were probably better (but not by ANY means conclusive) indicators that something was seriously wrong with Cho. About all you can conclude his body of work is that he was an immature, angry 23-year-old student, and wrote like one. Yes, the tragedy is awful; yes, we want to prevent another one, if we reasonably can. However, focusing on irrelevancies like some motherfucking play he wrote a while back about attempting to kill a sexually abusive stepfather does little to further our understanding. His works are made eerie, significant and prescient only by the nature of what we know now