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I think I’ve seen roughly 800 arrangements and spellings for the name of the kid who killed 32 people at Virginia Tech last week. I don’t really care which version is accurate. I’m going with “Cho Seung-Hui.”
The thing that gets me about this guy is how well he reflects every neurosis we share as a society. Everyone thinks they know what Cho represented. And everyone thinks everyone else is wrong.
Some people would have you believe Cho did what he did as a product of his environment. The other day, a friend sent me an article which blamed video games and anti-depressants, calling this killer the product of “cultural brainwashing.” I guess that’s possible. On the other hand, I’ve taken anti-depressants and played lots of video games. The only things I’ve ever shot were a clay pigeon and a clown with an open mouth.
Then there’s the argument that Cho couldn’t’ve killed all those people if only guns didn’t exist, or weren’t available. This argument is retarded. Guns don’t have some magical, mystical, life-destroying power. They only have the power that human beings give them.
It would be wrong to blame Cho’s actions on our society. Society didn’t turn Cho into a cold-blooded killer; Cho turned Cho into a cold-blooded killer. No one made him stalk two classmates, or call in bomb threats, or send a hardly coherent “multimedia manifesto” to Brian Williams. He did all that stuff on his own.
At the same time, it would be idiotic to act like Cho wasn’t one of us, as much as he tried not to be. This guy wore sunglasses to class, ignored people who said hello, and spent all his time listening to Collective Soul’s “Shine” over and over and over again. He was a goddam weirdo. And a certifiably dangerous weirdo. Why did this school insist on letting him stick around?
Virginia Tech’s English Department can’t be blamed for what Cho did, but I can’t help but wonder why they went to such lengths for him. Do a search for his so-called plays, “Richard McBeef” and “Mr. Brownstone.” Read them. Then ask yourself how the hell this guy was an English major. If he wasn’t dead right now, he would be on track to be the worst writer ever to earn an English degree.
And why did the department give him one-on-one lessons when his classmates grew scared of him? Why was he worth it? At what point do we stop tiptoeing around the truth?
Cho Seung-Hui was an a-hole. He deserved to be called an a-hole, and treated like an a-hole, but instead people treated him like a king. They pushed him through the system in hopes that he wouldn’t blow till he got out of school. Then maybe a few months later he’d shoot up a workplace instead of a classroom or dorm.
The reality of human civilization is that individualism and collectivism aren’t mutually exclusive. Every human being is, in fact, an individual, and every human being is, in fact, the product of other human beings. We should respect one another and treat other people how we wish to be treated. But at the same time, we don’t owe it to people to let them hang around us. And when someone acts as bizarre as Cho Seung-Hui did, we owe it to ourselves to say: “Shape up or take a hike.”
Since no one else is saying it, I’ll end this column by finally telling this jerk the truth: Cho Seung-Hui, wherever you are, you look like William Hung, you talk like Napoleon Dynamite, and the pictures of you holding guns are more funny than scary. It sucks that you killed 32 people—but at least you’re no longer here.