Editorial: What the Virginia Tech shootings mean for us

Juliana Moraes-Liu, Author

So how do you make sense of the madness?

Thirty-two innocent lives, taken in the blink of an eye. You can’t really blame the gunman: he obviously wasn’t mentally stable, and we don’t honestly think that he was out to get the people he shot. He just had a rough life.

Then what? Can we blame ourselves? He said in his video,

“You had a hundred billion chances and ways to have avoided today. But you decided to spill my blood. You forced me into a corner and gave me only one option. The decision was yours.”

Is there some truth in this? Maybe this is where tolerance comes in.

Maybe we have to consider that we have a bit of responsibility in this matter. It’s an uncomfortable topic because, socially, it’s generally accepted. We make fun of the loners. And we’re not just limiting this to the shy ones. The obese. The homosexuals. Everyone’s fair game. And we all take part in this teasing – it’s the stuff we all do every day without thinking about it. The put-downs mean nothing to us, but to people like Cho Seung-Hui, they are stabs to the heart.

We’re not, by any means, excusing the shootings. Our thoughts and prayers are with the families of the victims.
All we’re saying is that we feel like there is a lesson to learn here.

And it’s not just about campus safety.

There are two things we can do to stop this next time. We can pay more attention to the troubled and the “weird,” and we can stop making fun of those who are “lower” than us. Both stem from being more aware and more accepting.

Cho’s roommate noted multiple odd encounters with Cho. An imaginary girlfriend named Jelly who travels by spaceship. A tour of North Carolina during a Thanksgiving break with Vladmir Putin, the current Russian president. Cho apparently grew up with him in Moscow. But none of these red-flag raising events came out until after the event. Hindsight is 20-20, we all say. But maybe we can look forward this time, instead of just behind.

And then there’s the case of the Cho being referred to a mental hospital. One of his teachers was so disturbed by his writings, she requested he be checked out by a professional. The request was never followed up on, and Cho was without help.

That’s where the system can improve. Here’s where the individual can:

Face it. Everyone does it; we all contribute to “the effect.” For some reason, insulting and making fun of others makes people feel good. It’s the superiority factor. Why do we do it? It’s rampant in high school. We do it. You do it. Every day. Call us hypocrites. We don’t expect this editorial to change the world.

And steps have been taken to try and stop this type of thing. The recent “Not In Our School” activities meant to relieve peer tension are a step in the right direction.

But so what? What can we do about it? Try to stop the comparisons. The put-downs. The judging. Don’t make fun of people just to get a kick out of it. If you really need incentive beyond just that, then think of it this way. Do you really want to be that “hedonistic” jerk who puts the shooter over the edge?

Prayers and good thoughts for all touched by these horrific events are much needed. But do the letters, the tears, the bloodshed really mean anything if we do nothing but remember?