Skip to main content
Message Font: Serif | Sans-Serif
 
No. of Recommendations: 0

You want to blame the person responsible. And you should. I do... even though I'm not generally the blaming type. In other words, I'm not the guy saying, "Why didn't the administration alert people?" (Actually, that kind of knee-jerk reaction slightly sickens me.) Or: "Why didn't his roommates incarcerate him?" Etc. Anyway, you want to blame the killer, and you should.

But then you want to blame... who else... the parents? Why not? It's very likely something was consistently horribly wrong in this family's dynamic, and there's just no way around that. At the very least, their son was extremely mentally sick, and either they didn't understand that well enough or they didn't know what to do. You can't not blame the parents, in a sense, since how we raise our kids has such a huge effect, for good or bad.

You want to blame his roommates or his classmates. And you can, if you like. People called him "Question Mark." It wasn't Lord-of-the-Flies nasty, but still, how telling. Let me tell you, though: I saw his two roommates on CNN tonight and I could not be more impressed by those guys. In them, could you not see yourself in college? They were trying to just get along or, in time, get by. They were trying to lead a "normal" college life, apart from the bizarre roommate they were stuck with. They took some steps at a few different points both to tell the guy he needed to shape up (stop stalking someone), etc., and then also to escalate to those in charge a bit. But they had no idea whether this was just one of those "weird guys on campus" -- didn't we all know a few, and perhaps we were considered weird ourselves! They had no idea what it would all come to. You want to blame his teachers, perhaps... although how eloquent and composed was his creative writing teacher, Professor Roy? Wow -- almost everyone on campus I saw interviewed was so well-spoken, balanced in their own character, real. You may want to blame them, but I don't really find blame productive or, here, justified.

And so you then begin to realize something a bit deeper.

You then begin to realize that if you want to blame anyone beyond the sick individual himself, you might as well just blame yourself. In a small way. But a serious way. Blame humanity. Because here's what's wrong: We're all guilty. We all have failed at various points in our lives to connect with people who need help. Most seriously sick young people are called "loners" only after they do something really bad. Then we hear they didn't reach out. We hear they had no friends. They were, in Dr. Henry Cloud's parlance, "disconnected." They were not part of us. We can blame them and their parents and their church and their roommates and their teachers and their society (their music, their videogames, their movies and TV, their culture), but we all share some blame too in failing to get them connected. I've occasionally thought about starting a new Internet site that is designed to connect everyone. Anyone who wasn't accounted for on that site -- anyone who didn't have, say, 4+ friends who could vouch for this person ("he/she is all right"), would at the very least get more attention or scrutiny from those around him. It's not Big Brother... it's more like Big Brothers -- the other one, the non-profit that aims to connect (there's that word again) young people to slightly less young people. Anyway, this is kind of happening on the Internet already, without necessarily needing Fools like me to create such sites. Moments in time that freeze tragically in our consciousness, like Virginia Tech on April 16, further advance our sensitivity to situations like this, and our understanding.

So before you spend much of any energy blaming anyone beyond the shooter, ensure that you have removed the log from your own eye. Ensure that you are taking personal steps in your own life -- your day-to-day -- reaching out to people who don't seem connected. Get them to say something. Interact -- you don't have to take them out to lunch or anything, if you don't have the time or don't want to. But make sure that cues like:

dark fiction writing
no friends
death-focus (in contrast to life-focus)
bizarre personal conduct
"I'm going to kill myself"

etc. -- all of which were present together in this guy (plus a bunch more cues) -- ensure, I'm saying, that this can't be said of you: that you didn't notice, or never made an effort. Strive both to remain connected yourself, and strive to connect -- to build trust, to empathize, to invite in, to speak truthfully, to extend unmerited favor -- to those around you.

In a world sometimes so truly upside-down that even South Korea's president feels he has to apologize for an incident like this week's, don't go looking for others' apologies. Instead, why not ask yourself what more you can do next time? Even if the unconnected around you aren't in any way homicidal or even if there's nothing life-threatening. Because there will always be a "next time" -- many such opportunities for you.

To close, here's a statistic most people don't know, and are shocked to learn. There is far more suicide in our society every year than homicide. You betcha; you could look it up. (The media don't report on suicide, but the 10 O'Clock News is always the first to lead with any and every homicide story they can possibly find.) The tragedy of 33 people dying is beyond anything that should happen in this world. But realize that what primarily happened this week began, out of chronology but in a psychologically true and essential way, with suicide. Mass shootings are actually a horrific but rare phenomenon. Suicide is not. Ask yourself why that is.

Connect. --David 

Print the post Back To Top
No. of Recommendations: 0

Why use the word "blame?"  Why do you need to find someone to blame?  Have you ever tried to get help for someone?  It is very difficult.  If they are not openly threatening themselves or some else, there is nothing you can do.  The help could have been offered, (Professor said he was referred to Counseling) but he had the legal right to refuse (he was 23 years old). 

At this point, the focus needs to be on the community (students, parents, administrators).  They need  prayers and support.  The "blame game" is not helpful. 

Print the post Back To Top
No. of Recommendations: 0

Why use the word "blame?"  Why do you need to find someone to blame?  Have you ever tried to get help for someone?  It is very difficult.  If they are not openly threatening themselves or some else, there is nothing you can do.  The help could have been offered, (Professor said he was referred to Counseling) but he had the legal right to refuse (he was 23 years old). 

At this point, the focus needs to be on the community (students, parents, administrators).  They need  prayers and support.  The "blame game" is not helpful. 

Print the post Back To Top
No. of Recommendations: 0
That was basically my point: "Blame" talk should be supplanted by an honest look around us, and into our own hearts. So, totally agreed. --D
Print the post Back To Top
No. of Recommendations: 0

So true.

Until this guy actually started shooting people, he hadn't done anything that would have been out of the ordinary for half my friends from high school to have done.  (Except for going to college, that is)  Many of my old friends had just me as their only friend.  Several have tried or threatened suicide.  Many were abused physically or sexually.  A couple of them had spent time in a psychiatric hospital and one was  habitually violent.  There was a dark time when I could have easily been characterized as a threat to society.

I would like to point out that suicide is not always direct and deliberate.  Many people kill themselves by wreckless behavior because they just don't care.  An old girlfriend explained her smoking and wreckless lifestyle in this manner:  "Maybe I want to die but I don't have the guts to do it all at once."  

By pure luck or divine intervention, all of my friends have survived in some way or another, neither killing themselves nor killing others.  A few of us have thrived, while others are still working on fixing the mistakes of the past.

Be a true friend.  It is just as bad or worse than not having friends to find out your "friends" don't  really care about you.  When your friends need help are you there?  Or are they on their own when they lose their job and their car breaks down?  What about when their girlfriend of 2 1/2 years just dumped them for someone else?

Just because somebody has things in common with a mass murderer doesn't mean they will turn out to be one.  The world is full of troubled teens and we need to reach out to them.  But don't judge teachers, administrators, etc. for not expelling someone because they have issues.  While I don't know what causes someone to do something so unconscionable, don't deny opportunity to the other 99.9% of troubled individuals--they don't need any more reasons to hate humanity.

 

Print the post Back To Top
No. of Recommendations: 0
Imperial, wow, very eloquent, very well-put. I'm flattered by your attention and your posting. Thank you for that excellent contribution. --DG
Print the post Back To Top
No. of Recommendations: 0

I've been so very disappointed with the media's impulse to assign blame ("our" country's media). I honestly can't understand how the media seems to be pushing students and the like, who had suffered this tragedy on campus, to assign blame to their administration or others...when clearly they themselves did not want to do so. I couldn't believe in cases that they [media] wouldn't just listen to the students piece of mind (who didn't want to blame anyone...they just wanted to come to grips with what happened in their community).

Sometimes I think we (myself no doubt included I'm sure at times) don't 'just listen' enough to others without trying to insert what we think, or would do, or think we know...

The sad thing too related to this sort of tragedy & the suicide stats, (as David mentions) is in our society & others we are more apt to examine physical illness of the heart or an arm or leg , etc. than in the mind.

We'll go to to the doctor to check out blood pressure. Family and friends will join in to help us eat right to manage cholesterol and the like. But with mental health, the health of our minds (greatly influenced too by the health of the rest of our bodies too) support is less accessible and often times so very "taboo". Some natural inclination is often to repel certain people who suffer from certain challenges, but often these are the folks that so desperately need specific assistance, or maybe just a helping hand; they too as individuals might not want to face issues and it becomes all the more complex...especially as one moves from child-->to teen--> to adult.

Print the post Back To Top
No. of Recommendations: 0

Dave,

I'm flattered by your flattery.  ;)   That was a very thoughtful post yourself and I felt I should respond in kind.

I've known a few people who had actually written down a "hate list" of people they wanted to kill.  These people need a lot of help, but I agree that what they probably need most is a true friend that is grounded in reality where you control your anger  rather than blaming others for it and wanting to murder them.  Or blaming yourself and wanting to murder yourself, either.

Dale

Print the post Back To Top
No. of Recommendations: 0

Dave,

   I whole heartedly agree with your insight concerning this tragedy.  I also am a believer in trying to solve the world's problems from the inside out: (What can I change about me that can and will make a positive influence on others around me).

  I can hold my peace when many expect an outburst.

  I can voice my opinion when many would prefer I remain silent.

  I can endure harshness and extend my compassion.

  I can do a lot of things and it may not always be easy to "remove the log" from my own eye but I must:

Why?  Because I know it makes a difference.  How?  Because I've experienced the difference it's made in my life when I've watched other people before me owning up to their responsibility in this life.

Thanks DG!

Thanks to everyone who has dared to change their own self before attempting to change the world!

Print the post Back To Top
No. of Recommendations: 0

The sentiments echoed here are all admirable and I not only commend them but also take them to heart. To be applied first, starting with the guy I wake-up to and look at in the mirror everyday.

In this specific case however, we are obviously talking about someone suffering from paranoid schizophrenia. And, in fact, it is sounding more and more like plenty of people--and officials--attempted to intervene and help him. Being a good friend and listener to someone this ill will usually only go 'so far'. It will do almost nothing to change symptoms although, I have to say, that the way this guy sounds like he was treated by classmates, dormates, professors and probably even his family, likely only served to fuel the paranoid impulses that he had been successfully suppressing for so long.

This is, unfortunately, the price we all will pay if we elect to maintain a society with the level of freedoms we have and the high premium we place upon individual liberties. We are very loathe to institutionalize such people; We don't adequately fund programs that make sure those who are severely mentally ill are continuing to take prescribed medications; We make it easy for just about anyone who desires, to own guns and lots of 'em--in fact, just think about if he had gotten ahold of any of the assault rifles banned during the Clinton era and reversed, if I remember correctly, during one of the most recent past Congresses;

Unless or until those issues are addressed, we will, unfortunately have these occasional tragedies. I don't necessarily--or personally-- think that is acceptable but I'm also not advocating here for any specific changes. I'm just identifying the issues. It took me several days of introspection but I even found what I think is a small positive aspect to this story: That is, when you consider all of the factors, these things actually happen very rarely. Don't get me wrong, I don't find that acceptable either. If you didn't find Dave's post too long on this topic and you are interested in how I came to my optimistic perspective though, here is my Contrarian's post on it:

http://caps.fool.com//Blogs/ViewPost.aspx?bpid=6915&t=01006745959252154676

 

Print the post Back To Top
No. of Recommendations: 0

Let's take a look at what guns the guy had.  First a semiautomatic 9 mm Glock 19.  Second, another semiautomatic gun the .22 caliber Walther P22.

 Not all crazy people are built alike.  It would be very hard to predict which are going to go on a massive shooting spree (not unlike predicting what stock is going up or down over the short term).  

 This proves that more gun control is necessary.  If the guy was trying to walk around campus with a rifle I doubt he would have gotten very far.  

Print the post Back To Top
No. of Recommendations: 0

Let's take a look at what guns the guy had.  First a semiautomatic 9 mm Glock 19.  Second, another semiautomatic gun the .22 caliber Walther P22.

 Not all crazy people are built alike.  It would be very hard to predict which are going to go on a massive shooting spree (not unlike predicting what stock is going up or down over the short term).  

 This proves that more gun control is necessary.  If the guy was trying to walk around campus with a rifle I doubt he would have gotten very far.  

Print the post Back To Top
No. of Recommendations: 0

I do not want to turn this into a flamewar, but I do want to respond to a comment:

"This proves that more gun control is necessary."

How does that prove that we need more gun control? Just because he had two guns?  Swords, knives, crossbows, shoestrings, large blunt objects, and even automobiles can be used to kill large numbers of people.  Many in the millitary are trained to kill with only their hands.  If you remember, Sept. 11, 2001, about 3000 people died from a handful of people using boxcutters to hijack airplanes.

I could make a similar short-cirtuit argument that the problem wasn't that he was in posession of legally obtained guns, but that NOBODY ELSE WAS.

If the guns were illegal, he could have obtained them illegally.  TRUST ME ON THIS ONE: it's easy to buy contraband items, whether they be drugs or weapons.

Anyone up close to this guy could have taken him out if they only had a P22 under their coat.  Besides, do you think he would have even attempted it if he thought that anyone on campus could shoot back?  He'd have probably run them over with a car instead.

But either argument would be in-part faulty.  The gun is only a tool and can be used for either good or bad.  I'm tired of people (though I'm not accusing anyone here of this) having the brainwashed attitude of gun=bad. 

The issue you and I have raised isn't really about guns, weapons, etc.  It is the issue of where we strike a balance between safety and liberty.  And I guess my point is that I believe we should be debating that, rather than gun=good or gun=bad.  That argument ranges from the PATRIOT Act and dometic surveilence to seat belts and I wish people would sit down and have honest conversation about the real issue of how much liberty they want to trade for safety (or the illusion thereof) rather than both sides spewing regurgitated propaganda.  (again, I'm not speaking of anyone here.  I'm just ranting.)

Print the post Back To Top
No. of Recommendations: 0

Imperial1964,

Bravo! You're absolutely right regarding the no guns = no one gets murdered.  Yes, the illegal route would have been taken.  As my Stepfather used to always say, once they take away guns from the decent law-abiding citizens, you are guaranteed to have chaos.  (He would have laughed out loud at your comments, and ,as a retired Vet who served two terms of duty in Vietnam, said "right on!")

The main point here being: why would we sacrifice the well being of the majority because of the unfortunate mental illness of a small minority. 

Kindest regards to you and all who are trying to come up with good solutions, while being respectful of others.

 

Print the post Back To Top
No. of Recommendations: 0

Imperial1964,

Bravo! You're absolutely right regarding the no guns = no one gets murdered.  Yes, the illegal route would have been taken.  As my Stepfather used to always say, once they take away guns from the decent law-abiding citizens, you are guaranteed to have chaos.  (He would have laughed out loud at your comments, and ,as a retired Vet who served two terms of duty in Vietnam, said "right on!")

The main point here being: why would we sacrifice the well being of the majority because of the unfortunate mental illness of a small minority. 

Kindest regards to you and all who are trying to come up with good solutions, while being respectful of others.

 

Print the post Back To Top
No. of Recommendations: 0

Pleasant surprise to find something so utopian at what felt like a pretty unlikely source.

Of course telling people to connect, while a good idea, isnt very likely to prevent this from happening again. The average person just wants someone to blame and then move on without having to do anything.

Nice reading nonetheless, and its always nice to know theres people out there with the right idea.

Print the post Back To Top
No. of Recommendations: 0

Dave, I think you're right on.

 

I do want to respond to the gun control folks: I'd rather have more people trying to be kind to each other--which is a very involved, proactive and time-consuming (though highly rewarding) thing.  

Cocaine control hasn't worked so well, and booze control didn't work so well...heroin and meth control is going pretty badly, too. Not sure why guns should be different.

But being involved and involving; trying to practice agape: that works better than laws for reducing all of the negative things I've mentioned here and many others besides. 

Thanks for the thought-provoking post. 

 

 

Print the post Back To Top
No. of Recommendations: 0

You have a fantastic point, and I loved reading your blog post, Dave.  You have a wonderful and rare ability to connect a current event to a larger truth, and share that with others.

Personally, I couldn't agree more about the need for people, all people, to connect with others.  One of my personal goals is to connect the people in my church with each other.  I host a small group in my home, simply focusing on bringing people together so that they can get involved in each others lives.  I cannot tell you how much this benefits people in such practical, easy to see ways, as well as deeper, emotional and psychological ways.  It makes a huge difference -- it is literally life-changing.

It is so hard -- nigh impossible -- to see ourselves clearly.  Others who are connected with us can help us see reality about ourselves that we simply don't see.  Our eyes point away from our body, and we spend most of our time focused on our surroundings.  It's no wonder we don't see ourselves clearly.

When I was a teenager, a friend called me one night at 1am, gun in hand, planning on shooting someone who had committed a horrible crime, and then taking his own life after.  We stayed on the phone for about an hour, and further tragedy was avoided.  How would things be different today if we weren't friends back then?  If he didn't have someone to call to say, "Hey, this is what I'm going to do.  Just wanted to say goodbye?"

Though I have intentionally avoided much of the news coverage surrounding this tragedy, I did see that Cho compared himself with Jesus Christ.  I can't help but think that if he was connected with others who knew the truth, reality, that they could have helped him to see that his acting out of his anger as he did, his desire to punish, was nothing at all like Jesus.

While Cho's misunderstanding and lack of connection might have been part of what drove such a tragic and uncommon occurrence, the particular issue of a lack of connection to others is a very common situation.  And I'm speaking to all, not just Dave here, but how many of you can honestly say you really have multiple people in your life that you are transparent with, honestly asking for and receiving feedback about your thoughts and your experiences?

For those reading that are desiring to connect, don't let it be just a connection on the Internet, but seek out real face-to-face relationships.  If you don't know how, go intentionally spend time with people who do.  Find those people who actively seek out and intentionally connect with people like Cho, and hang out with them.  Hang out with people who sacrifice of themselves to bring positive experiences to others.  Let them rub off on you.

And practice.  Next time you're picking up a Chipotle burrito, waiting for the tortilla to warm, ask the guy across the glass how business is going, or how he likes his job.  Ask a friend, or someone you respect, to go to lunch -- and talk about what's really going on in your life, what's on your mind.  If you are at a church with a small group ministry, find a group and get involved.  If you aren't, go find one, ask honest questions, and seek out honest answers.

Foolish regards, Paul 

Print the post Back To Top
No. of Recommendations: 0
Paul, Gravity, others, some great responses. You do honor to this page. Thank you. --David
Print the post Back To Top
No. of Recommendations: 0

Dave,

I agree with your thoughtful commentary, especially with respect to connecting with others (and yourself).  As much as the Virginia Tech shootings were a frightening tragedy, the one token of value we can all gain is that such an event reminds us that we are alive, and that we are fortunate.  It sort of kicks us in the butt and tells us that we should be doing something.  

I think the mistake we can make here is to follow the media's lead and start out on a campaign of reaction to "guarantee" that this type of tragedy won't ever happen again.  This is a foolish and fear-based endeavor.  It is a waste of time and life to focus on fear.  Death and murder are appallingly commonplace.  Over 100 people a day die in the US from auto accidents; dozens die every day in Iraq.  The Virginia Tech shootings were gruesome.  And so is the fact that on any typical day in the US over 40 people are murdered.  

We hear the word "evil" a lot lately from our leaders.  Just using that stupid word is a statement of defeat.  Tragedy is a very normal part of life, and there is a strong temptation to dwell on it.  Mistake.  We all have goals and dreams.  Don't waste your time.  Want to make a difference?  Then do it.                 

 Andrew

 

Print the post Back To Top
No. of Recommendations: 0
Great read
Print the post Back To Top