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Minas Tirith Forums » The Prancing Pony Archive » Slightly Different (but related) Question for Americans (Page 2)
Author Topic: Slightly Different (but related) Question for Americans
Guard of the Citadel
Citizen # 652

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An insightful point, Sil. It seems these socially marginalised types try to compensate for their powerlessness by reaching out for a fantasy of omnipotence furnished by a man with the gun, seen in endless movies and TV shows. It is perhaps America's pioneer heritage that makes that image, recognisable round the world, so potent (no matter how far ordinary suburban life in the US is removed from marauding Indians or attacks by wild animals).

Your thoughts?

Whereas the light perceives the very heart of the darkness, its own secret has not been discovered.

From: Perth, Scotland | Registered: Jun 2001  |  IP: Logged | Report this post to a Moderator
Roll of Honor Adulithien
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Several of the accounts I read indicated that some of Cho's peers did try to reach out to him. And as Talan pointed out, many people are bullied and teased and socially isolated in school...yet they don't become mass murderers.
I hadn't heard much about that. And like I said, he was probably a bit fargone by then. And sure not every bullied person becomes a killer. I hope you didn't inuit from my post that I pick that as the sole reason why. I see it as possibly having an effect, but it's obviously not the only thing. You can also factor in possible chemical imbalance and (naturally) personal choice, among a hundred other possibilities. []

Really, anything we want to say about this is just possibility, opinion and speculation, anyway, just as my post was.

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Knuckle Dragger
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"On April 16, 2007, when Cho Seung-Hui opened fire on his victims, shooting with deadly force and at random, another dark and painful chapter was written in our shared lives as human beings, and as Americans in particular. So much is unknown and so much spadework is being done to figure it all out. There is, however, in the midst of it all one powerful clue that gives us the only hint of an answer.

I am thousands of miles away from home in Atlanta as I write this, in a country I shall leave unnamed. The story made front page news and the headlines said: SOUTH KOREAN STUDENT IDENTIFIED AS ASSASSIN. With that began the story: His age, his name, his family background, and so on. As I turned a few pages inside, there were about twelve photographs spread across the top of the page—each one with a name and country of origin. At the center of the page was a family in Indonesia grieving over the loss of their son who “went to America to get an education.” “He will not be coming back,” they sobbed. The whole episode leaves the heart so heavy; even though only the immediate family feels the brunt of it, society as a whole feels wounded and heartbroken in the process. We have all lost something even as the loved ones have lost someone.

It is soul-gripping to see the “blame game” being played out. We all want so desperately to blame somebody. Why did someone not do something about it? Names, individuals, ethnicity, family, blame—all carry a single message. We are people who are individuals, with loves, roots, relationships, and attachments. Why did the system “restrict” any pre-emptive action? One simple reason. America is a land of laws and the individual has an incredible array of rights against institutions and powers of government. You see the picture emerging don’t you? A name, an individual, someone who could have done something. Yet as we look for someone to blame and someone to explain why these things happen and we give individual rights to each citizen, something was conspicuous in the trail of clues.

When asked in a class to sign his name on a sheet of paper, Cho Seung-Hui scribbled a question mark. Cho, who didn’t care to write or speak his own name, is now a name known around the world. He had lost not just his way; he lost himself. Whether he was a deeply disturbed individual psychologically or morally, he made society pay with psychological scars and moral confusion. He said it was time for him to “payback” what was owed him. He was exacting a price by killing those who knew their names but whose names he himself may not have known. And he knew the carnage would make the news and the list of names would be long. His name will go down in the history books of crime.

As we now live with the horror of what he did, people’s lives have been shattered irremediably. Individuals who were dearly loved will now be scripted on gravestones and be sorely missed. What is a life worth? Who can measure it? Life is not a quantity. It transcends all mathematical definitions. And so as I look at the pictures, I weep. It could have been my son, my daughter, or it could well have been me as I am on numerous campuses a year. More than anything else our hearts must at this time mourn with those who mourn, including the family of Cho who are now more devastated than ever, with guilt piled upon atrocity and tragedy. Their lives are permanently shattered as well.

But here is where moral reasoning enters. If we just mourn and weep we will never change the future. Soul-less reasoning will only portend a future of cataclysmic proportions when the names will be too many to count and very few will be left to do the counting. This horror we have witnessed will be only a foreshadowing of the greater darkness that looms when history-defying demagogues like Ahmedinejad have buttons within their reach that will make this event look like a picnic. Why do I say this?

In all of the commentaries dealing with this, there is a question lurking in the shadows. In the April 20th issue of International Herald Tribune, David Brooks entitles his thoughts under the caption “Navigating the Morality Line.” He quotes the famed line from Protagoras: “Man is the measure of all things.” Then the questions begin with torrential force:

But in the new science, the individual is like a cork bobbing on the currents of giant forces: evolution, brain chemistry, stress and upbringing…. At the extreme, many scientists now doubt that there is such a thing as free will… Once, Cho Seung Hui would have simply been condemned as evil…but now the language of morality is replaced by the language of determinism…. Responsibility shifts to wider forces.… In short, the killings at Virginia Tech happen at a time when we are renegotiating what you might call the Morality Line, the spot where background forces stop and individual choice … begins…. The killings happen at a moment when the people who explain behavior by talking about biology, chemistry, and social science are assertive and on the march, while the people who explain behavior by talking about individual character are confused and losing ground.

He ends his article by saying: “But it should be possible to acknowledge the scientists’ insights without allowing them to become monopolists…. There still seems to be such things as selves which are capable of making decisions.… It’s just that we no longer have any agreement about what they are.”

The commentary just below his one is by Barbara Oakley. She brings her excellent article to a close with the words: “This is about evil, and about how our universities are able to deal with it as a literary subject but not as a fact of life.”

Think about their statements. We don’t know what a “self” means anymore. We don’t know what “evil” means anymore.

Cho gave us a powerful pointer to the looming tragedy in himself when he put a question mark beside his name, not just in jest but with all the accompanying behavior of one whom nobody ever got to know. That question mark itself was a clue to something seriously wrong within him. But here we run into a painful choice whether this man was pitifully sick or decidedly cruel. If he were mentally ill we can see why he put a question mark beside his name and why those speaking in his defense will see a mitigating albeit horrific factor entering in this tragedy. If he weren’t mentally ill then his murderous onslaught is clearly evil—claiming to not know his name while mercilessly killing those who did have a name and trampling in blood the hearts of those who loved them, destroying in his path dreams and loves and families. It was either a tragedy or an atrocity.

The greater tragedy may well be ours: How we as a society, claiming to be well, look evil in the face but put a question mark beside it. That is the ultimate tragedy that engenders ultimate atrocities. Jesus said to the self-righteous that the man with physical blindness had an advantage. He knew he could not see. The one with spiritual blindness that doesn’t know he is blind is truly the one bereft of insight, truth, and reality. That may be our biggest danger at this hour

May God help the loved ones through this grief for only He is big enough to comfort those whom He knows by name. And may we as humanity wake up and realize when the word “evil” is mentioned to know it is in each one of us, and for that only Christ is big enough to change us from who we are to who we ought to be. Until then, the body count will continue to rise and ink will continue to be spilled in question marks.

Augustus Montague Toplady wrote a profound hymn:

Rock of Ages, cleft for me

Let me hide myself in thee;

Let the water and the blood,

From thy wounded side which flowed,

Be for sin the double cure,

Cleanse me from its guilt and power.

The writer knew evil. It has a double strength. Guilt and power. Until we admit the guilt of the evil in each one of us, we can never be delivered from its power over us. Those who deal with questions of the soul may seem to be losing the battle with neuroscience and biochemistry. But until the soul wins this one, the Cho’s of this world are the true victor’s. That is a thought more painful than the carnage of April 16th. Thank God He alone is the judge and life does not end with bullet marks, for the Cross has the power to cover those wounds and raise us again. The judge of all the earth will do right. May His comfort be with those who need it most, and may His wisdom be with all of us who seek to understand why there need not be a question mark beside our names: His love is available to each. As is His cure and His comfort."


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Roll of Honor Wandering Tuor
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There's a profile of Cho in today's New York Times ($, possibly). He seems to have been mentally ill practically since birth.
From the beginning, he did not talk. Not to other children, not to his own family. Everyone saw this. In Seoul, South Korea, where Seung-Hui Cho grew up, his mother agonized over his sullen, brooding behavior and empty face. Talk, she just wanted him to talk.
As far as the killings, the only details I saw that I wasn't aware of previously were:

  • that when the police investigated the first two killings (in Johnston Hall at 7:00 a.m.) of a female student and an RA, they immediately suspected the girl's boyfriend (because they were told he owned a gun); this was apparently why they didn't suspect that more killings might occur, and
  • that the other 30 killings took no more than 10-15 minutes; Cho fired 175 rounds at students and teachers in four different classrooms.

[ 04-22-2007, 02:31 PM: Message edited by: Wandering Tuor ]

From: My place | Registered: Jan 2002  |  IP: Logged | Report this post to a Moderator
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