The Virginia Tech Tragedy: Whither America?

by Uzoma Nduka

Carnage. Catastrophe. Chaos. Confusion. Crazy. Devastation. Depressing. Senseless. Wicked. Weird. Callous. Unimaginable. Unthinkable. Mean. Bizarre. Massacre. Murder. Maiming. Scarring.

All these words best fits into the “dramagedy” that opened its ugliness on the serene city of Blacksburg, Virginia. Death was acted out in flesh and blood. The script bore sameness with the chimerism called Hollywood. It was the reality of unreality and insanity. It elucidated the undebatable core issues of gun-control, mental health, parental control, communication and acceptability in modern America. It reminded us all of sundry issues and matters long sidelined. Everyone once again fell into the madness of questioning the madness in not learning from yore experiences and incidents. What to do?

It was on April 16th, 2007. A twenty-three year old Asian male invaded and brought down tears from the eye ducts of the Virginia Polytechnic a.k.a. Virginia Tech, Americans and the human race. By the time Cho Seung Hui was done thirty-three dead, including Cho, lay on the dormitory and classroom of Virginia Tech. America woke up that black Blacksburg morning to be accosted with the worst “holocaust” and “Katrina” in the history of school shooting. It was indescribable yet true. And it had its’ place in the book of numbers.

The first news that came out of the media was that a young Asian boy who immigrated into the United States of America since 1992 with a student’s visa unleashed this Virginia Tech carnage. Later, investigations proved that Cho actually came into the U.S. when he was 8 years old with his parents and was a legal resident in the U.S. The twists and turns of Cho’s status in the U.S. by the media was almost headed towards the activities of some of the 9/11 perpetrators who were in the U.S. on students visa. But this debate was debunked when the real facts were turned in about Cho’s status.

Following, the news swiftly shifted to the mayhem. It was learnt that Cho Seung Hui began letting his anger flow by 7.15 am of this doomsday in Blacksburg, Virginia. He walked into a freshman coed dormitory and wickedly shot a young woman and a resident adviser. This incident was treated as an isolated and domestic case and the police chose not to take campus-wide action by alerting students and staff of Virginia Tech. It was not anticipated that the shooting will escalate to a larger and grandiose scale.

Approximately two hours later, by 9.45 am to be succinct, the catastrophe descended.

As it has been described, “a man entered a classroom building and started walking into classrooms and shooting faculty members and students with two handguns”. Yet again, this was seen as another isolated case. The assumption was that the first shooter was different from the second. And this proved to be another error in judgment.

The question being asked was: why didn’t the school authority inform and alert students and staff of the first incident? Why did they wait for two hours and a bigger bloodbath to set the alarm on?

So many people have reasoned that the fact that the school authority did not send out email alert or use the loudspeakers to inform students about the first shooting was wrong. As they argued, this may not have prevented the second shooting but it would have put students and staff on the alert and prepared and it may have also reduced the number of deaths in the end. Yet some others argued otherwise.

As events unfolded it was discovered that so many things went wrong in this Cho Seung Hui’s case. It was discovered that Cho’s parents knew and reported Cho’s change of attitude and behavior. Furthermore, Cho’s classmates and students who knew Cho reported these changes too. Cho’s teacher recommended counseling for Cho. And finally the police was aware of all these reports about Cho. In all, Cho was given a clean bill of health by appropriate authorities. As such, he went to purchase two handguns from two different gun-shops in Virginia. Moreover, so many warning signs were ignored. It’s on record that Cho was a loner before attending the Virginia Tech School. Cho was always taking pictures of female legs and knees under desks with his cell phones (a prank some of us practiced too but differently). Two different female students reported of “annoying contacts” and electronic instant messages from Cho. It was reported of Cho’s suicidal proneness. These warning signs were all either out rightly and conveniently ignored or carelessly and recklessly overlooked.

This raised several more issues and questions: as a legal alien, was he permitted to buy a gun? Was a background check conducted on him? If yes why wasn’t it discovered that Cho had had depression? Was there any trail or record of Cho’s attitudinal change? Were students allowed to bring in gun into the campus? How many guns can one buy in a month in Virginia? Was the state of Virginia lax in gun laws? Should every student be allowed to have a gun on campus? Should teachers be permitted to carry weapons as well? How and where did Cho learn how to shoot? Should gun-control legislation be revisited all over America? All these “why’s” and “how’s” triggered off the politics of gun control and legislation in America and little attention was paid to the genesis of Cho’s weird behavior which culminated into this Virginia Tech shooting.

The media spurn the issue and the debate shifted to guns and gun-control. Less talk was heard about the mental status of Cho, in particular, and mental health of Americans, in general. The fact is: as important as the mechanisms and tools employed by Cho in the killings was, so also was the prompts or the triggers to the action. Some media personalities branded the students who were evaded by Cho as cowards and called Cho a liberal. Some said the students should have rushed or invaded the gunman-Cho- and Cho would not have succeeded in killing thirty-three and wounding about twenty students. Others (Rush Limbaugh, to be specific, check out Jay Marvin’s show on 760 Progressive Radio on 04-19-07) said it was only a liberal that could have made those kinds of Cho’s statements on rich kids. And that Cho Seung Hui could have been a converted liberal. This reveals to us the base the polity has fallen to.

We should have asked ourselves: why did Cho choose this devastating and deplorable part? What led him into his actions? Was this Cho’s making? What was Cho like growing up? Was he this recluse and loner, as has been recently described, while growing up? When did this lunacy begin? The import of Cho’s action should be looked into and not scratching the surface and sides of the matter and turning it into political grandstanding and posturing.

When this news first broke, I said to my mind this guy must have been cajoled and treated like a second-class citizen. He must have been made fun and jest of by classmates and friends and society (and not everyone can stomach such especially coming from miles and miles of culture away). And he decided to reside in his own thought and universe. And this deep thought led him into a depressive state and disastrous ending.

So we should be asking ourselves again who were the “you” reference in Cho’s cassette to the NBC network? Was Cho just referring to “rich kids” as was first reported? Was he referring to his classmates, teachers, social workers, counselors, school authority, the legislators, the executives, the judiciary, the people, and entire society or to Hollywood? Who were the “you”?

It must be observed that a lot of people did not follow through on Cho’s case. And it should be noted that one parent problem could lead to society’s sorrow.

Cho lacked faith in himself and in the society that should have assisted him. He may have had high hopes and aspirations which fell short of reality. And once that hope crashed he could not u-turn to truth. Cho may have heard of a free and just society but witnessed an un-free and unjust one. Cho may have dreamt of an acceptable and accommodating America but was faced with a harsh and segregating one. Cho may have seen himself as achieving and fulfilling his dreams but was faced with dreams quashed and suppressed by the “rich kids” attitudes.

Cho’s situation was tragic. Still more tragic is the fact that so many Americans and immigrants as well face this likely and closely similar situation everyday. So many people in the society lack health insurance and shelter. So many people in America have lost hope in the system they once believed in. So many Americans have aborted dreams and faith in the society they once held high. So many…. And this was Cho’s slot.

Cho may not have been insane as people described him to be. Cho was an epitome of an American who had lost hope and faith and was not resilient and resistant enough to bear the society’s hypocrisy and asymmetric.

This call to mind the kind of debate Americans should be engaged in after the disastrous Columbine case years ago(look up Peter Boyles 630 KHOW radio talk show interview with Bryan VS Frank on 04-19-07) and the despicable Denver Broncos William’s murder by drive-by shooting at the beginning of this year and other cases of shootings in America. The mystery of all these shootings has always been no lesson learnt. After the Amish case, everyone thought that rhetoric should have been put apart and action put in place. But the society still relaxed into its recliner and nothing was done. The over-politicization of these shootings and the lack of courage by lawmakers to bring up strong legislation to counter the insurgence of crime and murder in America must not be condoned. Lessons must be learned and good legislation must be copied from countries like Canada and the city and country of Dunblane (1996 school shooting), Great Britain particularly and Europe as a whole where the use of handguns are either banned or restricted. Cases like Cho’s are unheard of and minimal in the above-named countries. Restrictions must be put in place as regards gun ownership in America. It is true that the National Riffle Association gives large chunk of money to politicians to protect their interest but the interest of the nation-America- should be sacrosanct and guided first. Some of these students were the best and the brightest and may have been good presidents, senators, governors, business moguls and high-tech innovators. But their dreams, their aspirations, their love for the country and their parent’s dreams, aspirations and love for America were effaced by the lack of love and care and affection and community by the society. The anguish and shame Cho’s parents, brothers, sisters and countrymen must be going should be embraced by forgiveness. The society should learn not to cajole but to encourage, not to ex-communicate but to embrace, not to segregate but to accommodate the less privileged.

The lessons of yesterday should be the landmark actions and defense of tomorrow. Let us not continue to offer prayers in preventable events. Let us not continue to take political sides during national catastrophes and anguish. Let us communicate better. And our society will be a better place to be.

You may also like

Leave a Comment