Thoughts on the Virginia Tech massacre
By Alun Thomas
After any mass shooting one of the most predictable comments made during the aftermath is that the perpertrator showed obvious signs of mental illness and a massive killing capacity that should have been diverted before the spree occurred. Such missives are being spewed in the wake of Virginia Tech killer Cho Seung Hui's deadly rampage which if you believed those close to the situation could have been prevented if Hui's supposed mental deficiencies had been attended to by those who had been alerted to his fragile state of mind. Lies. If you tried to round up all the potential sociopaths in society showing signs of rage, hate and revenge then almost half the worlds population would have to be detained and contained in huge mental facilities. You simply cannot tell when someone will go over the edge like Hui did, whether the signs existed or not.
In 1996 I took a course at college called Film Studies. It was a farcical class that the professor in charge tried in vain to convince us that certain 'classic' films ('Death In Venice', 'Citizen Kane') had relevance to real life and society and were meant to be taken seriously. As such I handed in essays based on the true classic films of our age such as 'Death Wish 3' and 'Deadly Prey', films which featured huge body counts and showed movies for what they were to me, jokeworthy. Another third essay was voluntary. I did it and copied the lyrics from a Polish death metal band named Dragon and handed it in. When I received the paper back the professor had written 'you need to see me, I think we have some problems here'. I never saw him and I was awarded an F for the paper. When I did run into the aging English ponce some months later to question my grade he informed me that he had thought I was a maniac and had warned the faculty about me as a deterent.
Was I a budding psychopath? No. It was simply my overwhelming disgust for the course that led me to produce such disastrous essays with questionable content. But it was enough to raise concerns about my state of mind. But could they have prevented me if I had cracked and come to college armed with a switchblade and slashed at passers by? No. In November of 1990 an avid gun collector and full time misfit named David Gray went on a shooting spree that left thirteen dead in the sleepy coastal town of Aramoana in New Zealand. It was unheard of for the country where gun control was heavily regulated. After it happened I watched an interview with a neighbour who described Gray as 'explosive' and a threat. Why didn't he warn anyone then? After the event it was pure sensationalism. But who could have predicted the loner's actions? Nobody. Explosive or not.
These types of shootings have been taken place for an eternity so they should not come as a shock. But as they become more common you cannot make even jokes about performing such an action. A fellow I once worked with once said in anger after one too many evenings of ridicule and humilation that he would come into work and pick us all off from a warehouse across the street. I informed the bloated git that I could report him to the police for such a blatant statement. Now we all knew he wouldn't do it, but his anger when mocked sometimes put thoughts in my head and one night I imagined a scenario where he chased me through the building firing indiscriminately and how I would escape.
It seemed preposterous and I forgot about it. Last week after Virginia Tech I was told that this man at his latest job had been fired for telling his new workmates he would come in and shoot them, in a certain order. It turned out he was accused after the killings of being the most likely among the group to do the same thing there. This infuriated him, hence the empty threat. It was enough for his fellow workers to inform the supervisor, resulting in loss of job, a police warning and being escorted off the property. I was amazed what I had heard years back actually came back to haunt this guy. I was right after all. Would he do it? No. But if he did you'd never know when and where. So what's the point of speculating?
We've all known an edgy loser in our time. So because of the killings should we watch them closer? No. There's too many disaffected cases out there to keep an eye on. And let's make it clear. Virginia Tech wasn't a 'tragedy'. A tragedy to me is thirty two students and teachers dying in a freak accident. Not a premeditated act of murder. How is it a tragedy? Because Hui slipped through the cracks? That he was a 'victim'? Of what? I refuse to believe shooting an innocent victim in the face is a tragedy. That word needs to be revised in its usage by all the pathetic media outlets who covered the story into the ground until it seemed meaningless.
Of course the same week as Virgina Tech thirteen people were shot to death outside a police station in Nigeria, while 178 people were killed by acts of terrorism in Iraq. Do those deaths have meaning to anyone except to serve as diminutive sidebars on CNN or the internet? Do we ask if the killers in those situations were likely to commit an act and could have been prevented? No, because it isn't here and in front of us. It's sad, but it's a reality that exists and always will. Ask the families of the thirty six people killed in Tasmania, Australia in 1996 by a deranged gunman and the thousands of other victims around the world of such events. It happens everywhere. And unless the cicumstances are extraordinary, we will never know where and when it will happen again.