Friday, August 17, 2018

Why They Shoot


One of the most troubling aspects of the recent Virginia Tech tragedy is the degree to which it’s been talked about. This amount of silence on the issue is horribly unsettling.

When Columbine went down, it was the subject of conversations for months. The fear of people in trench coats still exists today. Everyone saw the Bowling for Columbine Michael Moore documentary.

The fact that in the recent months, we saw more media response and had more conversations about the death of Anna Nicole Smith is pretty sobering. The more that these shootings happen, the less it seems that we understand them, and the more we want to avoid the subject.

The subject of many articles in the news is motive. The authorities are still looking for Cho’s reason for doing what he did. They’re searching hard for the answers as to why he started shooting at his dorm, why he chose Emily Hilscher as the first victim, etc. Aside from the usual strangeness that accompanies being a loner, not much has turned up. He was an English major, he was quiet, kept to himself, and so on.

These seem like inconsequential specifics. There’s only one thing that seems completely clear: This many people had to die in order for Cho to get his point across.

His point?

His point was that he had no point. His point was that his life was so small and insignificant that creating this devastating hurricane of death before his suicide would be the biggest impact he could ever make. This was the only way he could truly express his internal volumes of horror, pain, and sadness, mixed with the uncontainable thirst for power.

And that’s probably what it usually comes down to: The need for tremendous power and self-expression before death. There are countless people who feel like Cho, to some degree – people who are struggling, every day, to fight against feeling worthless, insignificant, invisible, and powerless to change anything. These individuals are constantly repressing the fury that builds when they can’t stop noticing how unfair life’s distribution of goods is.

They may make cries for help, or they may harbor their anger until it erupts in evil and desperate ways. Chances certainly don’t come easy for people who’ve been isolated since birth, who are not equipped with the skills necessary to exist in an ever-changing and indifferent society.

One thing’s for sure – these cycles are nearly impossible to break. We will continue to avoid alienated people. We will avoid them because we’ll sense that they’re in a dark place, and thus we will continue to be links in the chain of backs turned to them.

We can argue that the Cho’s of the world are just being weak; that they could change, could seek help, could work hard to survive like the rest of us. Let's all remain aware of this: the fact we’re able to see these options is a blessing that not everyone has. There’s no light in the heads of these killers. They can’t see much at all.

In the aftermath, it's hard not to be afraid that the lonely kids at school will become even more feared and avoided than they’ve already been. It's easy for us to become projectionists on others, impressing the expectation that the quiet ones will become the next Seung-Hui Cho.

If there were a way to stop this cycle, it might be working to see the best in everyone. Our image of them as a better person may be the spark of hope they need to see it in themselves.

About the Writer

Jessamyn Cuneo is a writer for BrooWaha. For more information, visit the writer's website.
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2 comments on Why They Shoot

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By Steven Lane on April 25, 2007 at 07:45 pm
Well written, an interesting take on this.
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By V on April 28, 2007 at 10:44 am
Thanks Jessamyn. Interesting article. "Our image of them as a better person may be the spark of hope they need to see it in themselves," I often think that too.
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