Blogging the string in the labyrinth of Crete

Thursday, April 19, 2007

Cho Sueng-Hui

There's a lot of worry about backlash over the Virginia Tech shootings. Immigrants and Asian-Americans generally, and Koreans specifically, fear a wave of prejudice and potential violence against them.

That wave will never come. Too many in the media have already noted and warned against it. Asian-Americans are generally quite well regarded for their hard work and social status. Immigrants are far too diverse a group and the act too random to be successfully associated with them.

There will, however, be a significant backlash against psychotics. It will be long, harsh, and uncontradicted by the media. In fact, the media supports this backlash: headlines such as "Stare into the face of Evil!" juxtaposed against "Rantings of a Lunatic" ensure the connection will be made. Lunatics are evil and dangerous. The media will offer the video and records of Cho's writings as proof.

I'm no bleeding-heart liberal, and despise the restrictions of language that political correctness often irrationally imposes. "Lunatic" is a fine word, and pretty accurately describes Cho's rantings. However, even though we readily agree that Cho was crazy, he is defined as "evil" in the public eye and many of the religious wish for him to burn in hell. Our society vilifies Cho even more than a hit man with a "rational" reason for murder, despite the lack of self-control that lunacy suggests.

People will point out that most Asian-Americans are not child-killing monsters, or would if there were any real danger of them being stereotyped (cf., Muslims). They will not point out that most of the insane are also not dangerous. Psychologists in institutions will be much more careful about certifying that someone is well enough to be allowed into society, and there is already a bias towards keeping people in. A state psychologist won't be criticized for the number of patients they decide aren't ready to be in public. However, if one leaves on their permission and goes on a murder spree, the psychologist's professional life is forfeit.

Unfortunately, that means my brother will likely be spending more time in the institution currently holding him. He's been between locked down mental hospitals solidly for the past seven years. Having shared a room with him for over ten years, I know the ravings of a diseased mind quite well. I know the futility of non-drug therapies. I know both the moments of complete insanity and the stretches of relative lucidity. I've met other psychotics as well, in college personally and while studying psychology as a major. And I've learned that most of the time, psychotics are afraid. They constantly imagine things around them which don't exist and connections that make no sense.

Imagine being compelled to invent and alter your own complex religion, ritual, and symbology on the spot, and have it unaffected by reality. It can be confusing talking to such a person, but rarely frightening unless you have a very low tolerance for the unexpected. The conversation would far more likely be frightening for them.

And this means that Cho's rantings are worse than useless to all but an academic. People will wonder about the details of "Ismael Ax" and his reference to Jesus Christ and postulate that religion may have had something to do with it. They're wrong. I don't like religion, but it has nothing to do with this. The videos are worthless to the general public. Publishing his rantings does nothing more than give future lunatics another person to cite in their own ravings, with no more relevance than Cho's reference to Harris and Klebold. Showing them on tv was simply sensationalism. No one should expect any reason that appears remotely valid to a sane mind.

There will also be backlash against Cho's family. There are scattered articles about the horror "just beginning" for them (obvious news flash: the family's horrors began some time ago, it just wasn't on the front pages then. And it's infinitely worse now). Cho's parents will almost certainly have difficulty in their community, as people wonder if it was somehow their fault. They'll receive no outpouring of sympathy from the larger community, and chances are good that an awkward few will attend the funeral. People will likely eye Cho's sister warily, suspecting that there lies a dark heart somewhere within her. And everyone around them, without fail, will know who they are related to but not address it with them. Cho's parents will remember with great pain the promise their son showed at one time. They'll cringe as they see the writings posted online, recalling far better work he'd written when clear-headed. They'll fear that no one will ever understand that their son was more than just a murderer, that no one will see him as more than a heartless killer now.

You might not find yourself capable of feeling grief for the 33rd person gunned down. But somewhere, in your hearts or minds, remember that the situation was no less tragic for him and his family than for the first 32 victims.



Anonymous Anonymous said...

It's Liz from I Speak of Dreams.

This post made me weep. It articulates what has been in the back of my mind since Monday.

Cho Sueng-Hui did evil deeds out of his untreated mental illness.

Indeed, we are called also to have compassion for him, and for his family.

1:36 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

I read your post-I will need to go back and read it again to digest all you have said.
But one point you made was you felt this will not have a back lash on the Asian or Korean community. Sadly,I feel you're wrong.
My beautiful,hard working, honor roll God son,is blessed and cursed to be born Persian/Korean. His father served in the
Airforce(highest decorated)and now is dying for protecting our country.His mother cares for his father fulltime and raises her two boys.

But Small minded people don't stop to see him for what a great person he is. Or how he has triumphed over adversity. No! On Sept 11th they remind him he's a dirty musilum.

And on April 18th while walking with his friends to his highshool a police officer grabbed him by the shirt, yelled in face racial slurrs and told him he was not allowed to park his car on school grounds. He was frightened and humiliated.

When he reached the school with his friends still in shock and disbelief of what just happened, a group students in there cruel humor approached him and made "cho" refferences to him. How they better watch out for "xxx" he's the next Vtech killer.

My straight A, clean cut,popular God son, had, had enough and left school before the 9am bell rang.

Is this where the next seed of hatred gets planted? He was angry,sad and sickend at these people. These were people he trusted in his community, his peers at school! How could they be so small minded!

For the first time I saw him wanting to strike back in anger. His mother quickly sat him down and defused his anger and gave him the tools to posotively cope with this situation and others which will come his way. I suggested she call a counselor which she also did for him to sit down and talk it out.

I feel our schools and colleges don't need to worry about gun control- that's an issue which sadly will never be resolved-Schools & colleges should have quarterly assemblies and mass education about cultural acceptance, harrasment& bullying. What to do and who to go to when you see the signs of a classmate in trouble- & Mental health policy needs to change..

And your a right! The media needs to stop all publicity on Cho- It's just setting the date and stage for the next rampage.

If you have no faith - how do you cope at such a time of loss.. And if you have faith what a test it must be to hold on to it and find reason and forgiveness...I'm from NY and no matter how many years go by,or how tight I close my eyes, 9/11 never goes away- my daughter and my life has forever changed since that day..the forgiving is slow and complicated and we will never forget.

please forgive the spelling I am dyslexic..

10:05 PM  
Blogger CrypticLife said...

"Sadly,I feel you're wrong."

You could be correct. I don't think the backlash will be quite as bad as against Muslims after 9/11, but I'm not certain. It may also be hopeful thinking on my part, as my kids are half-Asian.

No worries on spelling.

I think I'll do my next post on your last full paragraph, which is a doozy, and something one which I might be able to offer an interesting perspective.

8:15 AM  

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