I've been following the saga of the Virginia Tech shooter with some fascination. Yes, it's a tragedy and no, the students' deaths are no less senseless and outrageous than -- just to name one example-- the 198 people who perished last Wednesday in Baghdad. Americans have come to expect that kind of violence in the less "civilized" parts of the world, so they are not shocked nor do they comprehend the grief of losing your child to liberation bombing or the "birth pangs" of a new Middle East. Most Americans don't shop at market places so the Baghdad market bombing seems remote, outlandish. They do however aspire to send their kids to college, which is why the killing spree of Seung-Hui Cho (misidentified as Cho Seung-Hui for the past week) qualifies as "senseless" while other more political tragedies are met with indifference (unless they claim the lives of "our boys").
For days now, every television station has broadcast the video clips Seung-Hui Cho mailed to NBC in between his morning and afternoon shooting rampages (with a disclaimer, of course; these "disturbing images" are being screened to satisfy your inner amateur psychoanalyst.) The emphasis is always on the pre-meditated factor of his killings; not a word on the presentation or content. "It shows he meticulously planned and carried out his murderous spree." No shit, sherlock.
The plays he wrote as an English major in college are available online. Not to encourage the starving and neglected playwrights out there to follow Cho's example and have their work widely read and critiqued, but always apologetically presented as further evidence of a disturbed and violent mind. People seek to comprehend why Cho committed these crimes. To prevent a similar tragedy from transpiring, creative writing instructors must henceforth learn to distinguish between assignments that reveal actual violent intent or just plain old shock value.
That violent intent is rather harmless without the liberal means to commit such an act (purchasing guns requires a five-minute transaction; ammunition is readily available 24/7 at your local superstore), is not up for discussion. Not over Bush's dead body.
Well here's my two cents on the disturbed and violent mind of Seung-Hui Cho:
Reading the plays and watching his video manifesto, it strikes me that the killer must have suffered an immense inner void. The dialogue in his plays is as lame as the plot, the violent episodes unoriginal ("You want me to stick this remote control up your ass, buddy?") and childish (stuffing a half-eaten candybar down somebody's throat.) Cho's play "Richard McBeef" is an astounding testament to a confused assimilation into American culture; his use of violent phrases and insults are muddled in their grammatical use and context, a bland and banal expression of unfocused rage. He might as well just have scrawled Shitfuckshitfuckshitfuckshit over 12 pages. Home Alone is fifty times as originally violent and macabre.
The video-taped manifesto is eery not only because of the violent intent it expresses but because his presentation seems so apathetic and insincere. For the most part he is seen reading off of a paper, stumbling over his own awkward cliche-riddled phrases: "You made me do this... I did this for my children." "Have you ever wondered what it feels like to have your throat slit from ear to ear?... Thanks to you I die like Jesus Christ, who inspired generations of the weak and the defenseless people." If Cho had auditioned for his own role as mass murderer in a play, he would not have gotten the part.
Seen from this angle, Cho's killing spree at Virginia Tech perhaps exemplifies the "evil of banality" and nothing more; that someone as empty and stupid as Cho can be driven to madness by his creative shortcomings. Cho's suicidal rampage could embody a case of mediocrity of the mind turned murderous. Hitler too was a bad artist and apparently frustrated and driven to megalomania by his lack of talent.
My father complained after two days of non-stop TV coverage that he was "profoundly bored" by the whole affair. I myself was slightly disgusted by the crowd roaring, "Go Hogies!" at the funeral service for the deceased, or whatever their silly varsity team is called. What did make me very very sad, is the public letter written by his sister and the interviews conducted with his ancient toothless great aunt in Seoul. "I loved my brother. Now I don't feel like I know that person anymore", his sister wrote. TV psychologist Dr. Phil generously recommended that one must have "sympathy" for the family for "they too require our support." May his victims rest in peace.