Clouds canvassed the northeastern United States on April 16th as the news spread of the murders in Blacksburg, Virginia. Almost at once, the spirit of sympathy raced to the graves of the deceased, as heads hung down in sullen anxiousness, and trembling eyes all asked the question that seemed to loom above everyone’s heads: “Was he one of us?”
On August 1, 1966, Sniper Charles Whitman killed 14 people and injured dozens at the University of Texas. In April of 1995, the Alfred P. Murrah Federal Building, a U.S. government office complex, was bombed in Oklahoma City, killing hundreds. In April of 1999, two teenagers at Columbine High School, Colorado, killed 13 students before killing themselves. In October of 2002, ten people were killed and three others were critically injured after being shot in the Washington D.C. area by the Beltway snipers. Until the sniper shootings of 2002, popular national terrors were widely known to be executed by Caucasian males that had histories of mental illnesses and clinical depressions. When the identities of the snipers were revealed, African-Americans stood shocked and gravely embarrassed at the given reality, and fearful at the possibilities of what may have resulted in the incident, including further exclusion from the majority. The fear of being in the same racial category as a national terrorist is a sentiment shared by all races, in consequence of nationalist tendencies to place good guys against bad guys, white against black, and wrongs against rights, where all of the bad guys look the same, and there are no middle grounds.
Cho Seung-Hui was a South Korean immigrant who came to the U.S. at about age 8 in 1992. When his race was uncovered after the Virginia Tech shootings, media explored the precedent of the fatal incident, and things that may have led to his psychological state. Most concluded, after learning that he had been sent to a psychiatric hospital and pronounced an imminent danger to himself, that his sudden revenge on the world was the cause of a history of mental illness that may or may not have been “biological”, “genetic”, and some even went as far as examining the mental range of the Korean race as a whole, furthering tensions and fears of back-lash from Korean-American communities around the country.
THERE IS NO SINGLE REPRESENTATIVE OF ANY RACE. Connecting Hui’s mental state to his family or his place of origin are bigoted implications that usher hate crimes against innocent and unaffiliated parties. All wrongs do not look the same, the good guys do not all wear white, and the middle ground is a vast plain where the bulk of humanity rest their heads.
The challenge then, cannot be suspected as flaws in U.S. immigration laws or foreign policy, as some would persuade you to believe for hopes of, dare I say, increased pro-war dispositions. For starters, Virginia laws allow any state resident 18 years of age or older to buy a firearm, including assault weapons, if they pass a criminal background check run through state and federal databases. People can also buy weapons at second-hand gun shows without any waiting periods or background checks. Although Virginia has a lot less gun crimes per capita than most states, it is among the most lenient in gun-control laws in the country. “Congress did not enact any significant new gun laws in reaction to the shootings at Columbine High School in Colorado in 1999, although that event derailed efforts to move legislation in the 106th Congress that would have shielded gun manufacturers and dealers from being sued when third parties misuse their products. A similar bill returned in the 107th Congress, only to be shelved in 2002 — the same year as the D.C. sniper case,” said Seth Stern of the Congressional Quarterly. Even Democratic leaders reportedly show little enthusiasm for executing tighter gun control legislation that would likely attract scant support from Democratic lawmakers in rural and Republican-leaning districts.
Also, the availability of counseling in colleges is scarce, and the qualities of most of those services vary, mostly according to the prestige and amount of money that the school has. According to a 2007 survey by the Anxiety Disorders Association of America, 13 percent of students use campus mental health services. Although these services are not always the help that is needed of the depressed and often suicidal students, they are a progressive step towards the easing of collegiate stresses. Hui was referred to the school counseling service by a former teacher, but it was unclear whether or not he went. "I think more schools are mandating students for assessment when they are worried. But you really can't force someone to be in treatment," says Richard Kadison, chief of mental health services at Harvard. The allotment of most collegiate budgets are sources of debate, and sometimes even scandal and inter-administrative division. Across the board, however, a majority of these budgets are spent on salaries and facilities, as opposed to scholarships and student services. Free and professional, quality campus counseling may have gone a long way in this case, (where the suspect had been diagnosed as a harm to even himself, but was still allowed to stay in the classroom with other students without proof of counseling and mental calm), and in other cases of students that suffer from depression, and resort to attempts and successes at suicide. Overall funding and the allocation of funds are also a problem in the nation’s public schools, where facilities are decrepit, classrooms overflow, and staffs are mostly post-graduate individuals in transition, who at most times do not want to be there, and sometimes inflict the whims of their indifferences on their young audiences.
Finally, Hui, in his rants and tirades seemed to be an individual of poignant loneliness, and persistent pain. Although most people at some point in their lives are teased, Hui showed an individual that was almost irreparably ostracized. Though he chose to deal with his isolation in a brutal and somewhat barbaric way, his story seems to be the same song of the two teenagers at Columbine, the UT sniper, and other schoolhouse terrorists. This reality calls for a change in the way words are chosen and actions are determined. Pain seems to know no color, no birthplace, and no age. It is but a small fire, that when catalyzed, removes all ration and logic. With words, men are convinced to inhumanely slaughter entire races of people. With words, blood fights blood, stones are dropped, and movements are begun. With words, soldiers are coaxed, and the strong are persuaded. With words, heroes are inspired, but villains are also compelled. And with words, pain is forced into action, proving to be the greatest and most dangerous weapon of all time.