April 18, 2007

Culture and crime


Two articles to read:

CNN analysis of Cho Seung-Hui
AOL News article with Cho Seung-Hui's plays

Follow those links. Read them, especially the plays. This post will not make sense if you have not taken the time to actually read the plays.

Notice the frequent references to pedophilia, sodomy, and rape. These are not accidental. Someone, somewhere violently abused Cho Seung-Hui. Since the young protagonist of Richard McBeef is 13, it seems reasonable to assume that Cho was abused somewhere between the ages of 10 and 13. This is a common age for abuse to occur when the attacker is from outside the immediate family. If his father had been the abuser, it would have started much earlier.

In the play, notice how violently John responds to being touched by his step-father. There are only two groups of people who could describe the fear, revulsion and shock of a step-parent's touch so accurately: victims of abuse and their cousellors. For anyone else, John's response would be puzzling, and a little intimidating.

In Mr. Brownstone, notice how John wins, but Mr. Brownstone is allowed to take it away. The overwhelming sense of impotence, helplessness, and victimization in that passage is far more important than the anger, profanity, and immature writing of the play itself. That helplessness, that sense of total inability to control his own life is what drove Cho to commit his rampage.

Making a killer is a simple thing. It starts with an abusive adult using a child for a sex toy. If the adult is someone the child loves and trusts, then the damage will absolutely lead to violent acting out later in life. There are no exceptions that I know of. People like Cho, normally men but occasionally women, are not aberrations. Our society creates them. Our cultural inability to decide if sex is something beautiful and golden or slimy and disgusting drives men with real needs to use children for sex toys. Successive generations of sadists are the pure product of the grand delusion that "normal" is somehow right and pure and anyone who can't figure out what "normal" really means is deserving of the marginalization and humiliation we force them to endure every single day of their lives.

We make them. We create them. We reinforce their sense of helplessness by calling them "weird", ignoring them, fearing them, and using everything in our power to force them out of our social circle. Our inability to deal with damaged people in a campassionate, realistic way insures that our culture will continue to create mass murderers. Until we find some way to integrate these scarred, paranoid, and psychologically castrated individuals back into the mainstream of our social and cultural life we will leave them no choice but to continue building up rage until they explode.

Drop down to the bottom of the page with Cho's plays. The very first person to leave a comment was someone named "Stacy". Stacy says, "This is something written by a senior in college? It reads and sounds like something a 9th grader might write."

Exactly! Stacy has hit the proverbial nail square on the head. Cho has been emotionally frozen in time. His ability to mature has been slowed to such a glacial pace that it takes decades for him to learn the life lessons the rest of us pick up in a matter of months once puberty sends our hormones raging. Like everyone else, Cho developed a huge crush on someone, but that someone either refused to acknowledge him, or verbally humiliated him at some point. The ability of young teenagers to dismiss and despise anyone they find "weird" destroys any chance people like Cho might have to overcome the damage done when they were abused. Teasing them, humiliating them, bullying them, all these "normal" behaviors reinforce these people's inability to control their own life and master their own emotions.

The first person to create the Virginia Tech disaster was the man who abused Cho. The second person to contribute was the junior high school crush who treated him like some kind of sub-human. The last and final nail in Cho's coffin, and the coffins of his victims, was probably the woman who died in the dormitory where Cho's rampage started.

I'd like to take one more look at the comments on the AOL News page. Without mentioning names, I'm going to quote a few here:

"You are the one that sounds like an idiot: Get a life Stacy."

"Hey you twit - - - we aren't reading it for correct grammar or English. It is written about his twisted mind. Get focused moron. . . :o("

"This guy acted out like this and nobody said anything to the authorities or the teachers? Wow. How many Columbines do we need before somone figures this out?"


"dude is nuts clearly"

"Whoa this kid was a genius playwright! Its too bad he went pyscho."

Some of those comments, especially the last one, are probably meant to be sarcastic. However, it does not matter if the intent is sarcasm. The callous dismissal of both Cho and Stacy's analysis of his work are symptomatic of the cultural illness I am trying to point out. Every single one of these commentors is right now contributing to the creation of another Cho. Their attitudes, reinforced by our cultural obsession with "normal", are damaging the people they meet and interact with on a daily basis. This is how we create killers. If we want the tragedies to stop, then we need to examine how we treat the people we interact with every single day of our lives.

We create killers like Cho. You and me, working together to reinforce some imaginary sense of "normal", encouraging one another to "win-win-win", and slapping each other on the back while saying, "There's no such thing as second place!", we are the ones who create the killers. We don't pull the trigger. Of course not! What we do is marginalize them until they have no other way to convince us to recognize their needs.

Cho Seung-Hui killed 32 people, then shot himself, but we created him and we drove him to it. The time has come for each of us to recognize our own culpability in this tragedy. As long as we continue to marginalize those with scars so deep they never heal, we will continue to see tragedies like Columbine and Virginia Tech.

Make no mistake, we are the ones who create the killers.


Also on April 18, 2007

Late footnote:

CNN's John King sitting in for Anderson Cooper on AC 360 reports this about one of the victims:

Reema Samaha attended the same high school that graduated the gunman, Cho. She was just 18.

I have wondered over and over again why he went to that one particular building of the hundred or so available to him. The one possibility I could imagine was that he knew someone in one of the classrooms where he did his final killing. No human, no matter how insane, acts without reason. We cannot. It is physiologically impossible. Now I know. He was looking for Reema.

I'm not saying Cho was justified in his slaughter of these people. He was not justified. I am trying to point out that he had very real reasons for every single action, including the location of his final act of defiance. The only way we can hope to prevent the next Cho is to learn how and why this one acted the way he did.

We must learn not to create killers. It is our only hope for a better future.


April 19, 2007

2nd Late footnote:

I just found the following article on the Time website:

Why do they kill?

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