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3:33 pm EDT 50°F (10°C) in Carlisle, PA
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My truck is finally back out of the shop, after spending almost 18 hours in it yesterday. When they were doing the regular 30,000-mile (48,280 km) scheduled service, they found a whole bunch of other shit I didn’t even know about: for example, the steer-axle brake shoes were worn out and needed replacement, the tie-rod ends were worn out, and one of my drive-axle differential case seals had sprung a small oil leak. For my part, I had been awake for 31 consecutive hours from about this time Monday afternoon until around 10:00 pm EDT last night; I finally said “fuck it” and asked to be put up in a motel last night. I am fully rested now, and should be getting a load before long.
We have now learned more about the Monday morning massacre of 32 people at Virginia Tech; some of my reporting here, which was based on what was known at the time, has now been shown to be inaccurate. The shooter was 23-year-old Cho Seung-hui, who apparently was born in South Korea but held a green card that entitled him to legal permanent residence in the United States. (This means all the Reich-wingers like Michael “Savage” Weiner who wanted to use this as an occasion to bash all illegal immigrants can now shut their fucking pie-holes — Cho was here legally.) The female victim of the first pair of shootings, 19-year-old Emily Hilscher, did not have any kind of romantic past with Cho; rather, it appears Cho had developed some kind of obsession with her after she rejected his advances and informed Cho that she already had a boyfriend. Finally, the other 30 killings some two and a half hours later would appear to have been motivated only by Cho’s bat-shit insanity, rather than by a desire to find and kill Hilscher’s boyfriend Karl Thornhill, as some media commentators had initially surmised.
Information has also emerged about Cho himself — namely, that classmates knew him as a loner who rarely had much to say, and in fact actively rebuffed many attempts by others to get to know him. However, other information suggests that he repeatedly made attempts, inappropriate though they may have been, to get to know women he thought attractive; at least two such women reported inappropriate conduct by Cho to Virginia Tech resident advisors (RAs), according to news accounts. I’m not sure I would buy the argument that Cho was totally trying to cut himself off; rather, to me, the picture of Cho looks a lot more like those of the 1999 Columbine High School killers, Eric Harris and Dylan Klebold.
As we learned from Columbine, and I would say we are likely to see again with Cho, the kind of rage that leads to mass murder can be caused by ostracism, bullying, or other forms of hatred. Usually there is no good reason for this purposeful shunning of certain people to be so widespread; it probably starts with one or two people, and spreads because nobody bothers to expend the tiny amount of mental energy necessary to question it. People don’t question it, I would surmise, because they fear backlash from peers and relegation to a similar “outcast” status. Whatever the reasons for this kind of ostracism or purposeful shunning, it can end with deadly results when the right (or wrong?) kind of person — such as Harris, Klebold, or Cho — becomes its intended target.
The mental makeup of the perpetrators of such tragic massacres also plays an important part in understanding why such events happen. Many people can deal with life’s everyday little disappointments, hurts, and rejections in a healthy way. Some, however, cannot, and if these people lack a truly caring, empathic person — whether that be parents, teachers, close friends, or other extended family or authority figures — at some point early enough in their lives, the hurts in their lives instead fester into the kind of rage that manifests itself in mass murders and other mayhem.
Note that I am not even beginning to excuse or exculpate the likes of Eric Harris, Dylan Klebold, and Cho Seung-hui for their actions — rather, what I am trying to do is examine what could possibly motivate them to do such evil things. It is the combination of both of these things — the ostracism and the presence of a certain mental makeup among those who experience it — that leads to these national tragedies.
There is another lesson to be learned from this sad Virginia Tech massacre, in addition to the one in my update from yesterday, for so-called “fundamentalist ‘Christians’” and other haters of God’s gay, lesbian, bisexual, and transgender children. In many schools, churches, and even families, ostracism and shunning of GLBT youth — sometimes even one’s own children! — is still extremely pervasive. Parents, teachers, counselors, and school administrators — as well as students themselves — must take steps to combat this ostracism of GLBT youth, lest the homophobia and hatred lead some other kid for whom nobody truly cares to commit the next mass-murderous rampage at their school.
Although this was not a factor at Virginia Tech, we know it played a role at Columbine. The journals of Harris and Klebold, neither of whom was actually known to be gay, indicate that administrators did nothing about the taunts of “faggot” they nonetheless received regularly. Next time, it could very easily be a kid who actually is gay, who nobody affirms, to whom nobody listens, to whom nobody really shows unconditional love and care, who decides that enough is enough and shoots up a school. In order to prevent a “next time,” authority figures must promote complete acceptance and full inclusion of all colors, races, ethnicities, national origins, sexual orientations, gender identities, group affiliations, socio-economic classes, and yes, even religious affiliations, in our society. Had somebody been doing this in Cho Seung-hui’s life, he might not have gone bat-shit insane and killed 32 people.
There are also many valid arguments about the ease of obtaining weapons that can be made in the wake of this tragedy, and how history could have been different if we had tougher gun laws. Since I’m neither a “gun nut” nor an “anti-gun nut,” being somewhat ambivalent about the Second Amendment, I’m really not going to make any significant commentary here. One of the best blog posts I have seen about this comes from Matt at Hunger Pangs, so I’m going to refer people there.
While I have been writing this entry, I have been informed that my next load will be picking up about an hour east of here, near Hershey, and going to southern Maine. As long as the flooding in New England doesn’t cause me any problems, and as long as I can find a place to pahk in the yahd, I guess I’ll be all right. Ta-ta for now.