How Am I Like Cho Seung-Hui?

It’s a question I think we’d all do well to ask of ourselves this week as we reflect on the tragedy that occurred in Virginia and try to find ways to move forward as individuals and as a country. We need to stop blaming everything (video games, heavy metal, gun control, lack of gun control, violence on TV, evil-thing-of-the-week) and look inwardly for some answers. It’s easy to see how we are different from these “evil, disturbed people” and much harder to admit how much we share. But finding that connecting fabric is crucial to understanding our role as a society in these awful events. We all need to take responsibility. We are all a part of this world in which individuals are driven to commit such horrifying acts. We need to ask ourselves not “how could he do something like this?” but “How could I do something like this?”

Here are the ways that I am like Cho Seung-Hui.
  • I am male

  • I am 23 years old

  • I wear glasses

  • I live in The United States of America

  • I watch TV

  • I read books

  • I play videogames

  • I watch movies

  • I listen to music

  • I went to college

  • I am kind of weird

  • I rarely spoke to my roommate in college (and even lived alone for my final three years in school)

  • I am sometimes quiet and keep to myself (less recently, much more so in high school)

  • I have complained (occasionally harshly) about the rich, elitist student population at my college

  • I have produced creative writing (short stories, essays, poems, and plays) every bit as explicit, violent, and disturbing and turned it in for creative writing classes - including such themes as murder, incest, molestation, and rape.

  • I have fired a handgun
I don’t have the answer. I don’t have the slightest idea how to stop people from killing other people. All I know is that we’ve done it for all of history. And unless I’m terribly, terribly mistaken, that includes a time before Grand Theft Auto, before Quentin Tarantino, before Marilyn Manson, before guns.

We’ll drive ourselves crazy over “tell-tale signs,” psychological disorders, government regulation of these “bad” industries, and installation of the newest and most technologically awesome security devices - none of which change human nature, none of which make loneliness any less lonely or the hurt we feel any less painful, and none of which can protect us from our most frightening enemy: ourselves.

EDIT: My freshman year roommate, Mike Caputo, has left a great comment on this issue (though he tackles it from a different, but related, angle) , which you can read by clicking the comment link below, or on his MySpace blog (not sure if you need an account for that or not, however). Thanks, Mike!