We could have stopped Cho Seung-Hui

18 Apr

Watching and reading the coverage of the Virginia Tech incident the other day, as it happened, I could only think of one thing.

“Dude is crazy, and still nothing will come of it.”

Everyone is now spouting off about how “weird” he was, how angry he was. How he was declared mentally ill in 2005, and an imminent danger.

 One of his professors was so unnerved by him that she refused to teach him, and demanded he be removed. They questioned his writings, calling them “violent” and “intimidating”. They said he was “mean”

And nothing much happened.

He was able to walk into gun shop and buy a FUCKING GLOCK 9. Who the hell needs a glock outside of law enforcement? How can you just walk in a buy something like that? I’ve waited longer for pets!

I digress.

Now we’ll see the moaning, the bitching and the wondering, the “I told you so!!!” from everyone who was around him. But will any of that energy be focused in the two directions it needs to be: gun control, and better service for the mentally ill?

I’m not holding my breath.

Here you have a man who has been admitted against his will and declared a fruitbat for basically being a creepy, suicidal guy.  Here you also have a weapon meant for killing PEOPLE available just down the street. You have a guy who was detained as a threat, but then still passes a background check? You wouldn’t let him foster a kid-why give him a freaking gun?!

Hmmm. Untreated, likely sociopath. ooh! Gun shop!

Connect the dots.

We live in a culture which repeatedly disparages and ignores the rights and needs of the mentally ill AND the people around them. Who do you think deals with us? YOU! Yet as soon as something like this happens, everyone is glad to jump on the crazy bandwagon and point the finger. No one questions why there seems to have been no follow up. No one questions why there aren’t more resources available for the mentally ill, especially those on a school campus. (My one experience with campus psychology put me off for years) No one truly questions how this could have been prevented.

He was ordered to attend outpatient treatment. Ever met someone in denial of their illness? They don’t go to treatment. They continue on with their lives, even if they are insane. No one checks on them. No one follows up to see what’s going on. No one cares so long as you’re out of the way, and not costing anyone money.

See what happens?

If someone had taken the time at this and many other school shootings, to TRULY care about the person, or the possible consequences of this person, would we be having this conversation?

If people realized that yes, even mean sociopaths are fucked up and need help to PREVENT death, would they step up, and demand action when it comes to funding for mental illness?

And when will government and people wake up and realize that this is absolutely no good reason for a civilian to own a handgun. Especially one living on a campus that prohibits them.

But hey, when students comment “When we read Cho’s plays, it was like something out of a nightmare. The plays had really twisted, macabre violence that used weapons I wouldn’t have even thought of.” it really brings home for me how disconnected modern life really is. I’d love to take a poll and see how many of these kids went and watched “Saw” or “Hostel” or numerous other “twisted, macabre” movies.

And honestly? Read his “writing”-it’s juvenile, and stupid and boring, but it’s no worse than a lot of the dreck you see everyday.

But he’s crazy. So there must be a reason. He must have given us a sign. There must have been something.

There was.

See Slate as well.

18 Responses to “We could have stopped Cho Seung-Hui”

  1. bon April 18, 2007 at 7:49 pm #

    great point, Thordora…”If someone had taken the time at this and many other school shootings, to TRULY care about the person, or the possible consequences of this person, would we be having this conversation?”

    you’re right. society has one hell of a case of willful blindness when it comes to mental illness and mental health issues…it’s always somebody else’s problem, it seems, whether that means blaming people for their own problems or trying to hand folks who are struggling for help off to whatever ill-equipped agency they can think of, so long as it’s not their own doorstep. when i say “they” i mean me and i mean the system and i mean the Teflon-quality problems are supposed to have in our society.

  2. radicalmama April 18, 2007 at 8:08 pm #

    It does help to truly care but some people are beyond help, especially people who refuse treatment for mental illness. It seems like that was happened here.

    IMO, it would make a great difference if society started caring about violence against women. He was stalking some women, yet nothing was done. He murdered a woman in the dorms, but no need to alarm anyone. It was just a domestic disturbance!

  3. thordora April 18, 2007 at 8:51 pm #

    I fully agree that you can’t help everyone.

    But you can do more than wring your hands about how “mean” he is, and stand back wondering how he killed all these people. We don’t HAVE any kind of safety net for people who, as part of their illness, refuse treatment. And yup, some people cannot be fixed.

    He was stalking women, and all he gets is, pretty much nothing? And as you said, he killed someone, but no big deal?

    You can’t help everyone. But everyone can buy a gun. And look what happens.

  4. Vienna April 18, 2007 at 9:34 pm #

    I completely agree with you on all counts. I especially thought it was interesting that it is decidedly more difficult (if not impossible) to adopt a child than it is to buy a weapon that can kill or injure 50 people in 10 minutes. There’s another debate raging elsewhere about this, but I will truly never understand the need for civilians, especially those in urban areas- colleges, big cities, places where you don’t have bears on your back porch- needing a gun, especially a Glock. It will never make sense to me. See McCain’s new stance on this? Even more pro-gun-ownership than ever. I just don’t get it!

  5. Jen April 18, 2007 at 9:57 pm #

    Here you have a man who has been admitted against his will and declared a fruitbat for basically being a creepy, suicidal guy. Here you also have a weapon meant for killing PEOPLE available just down the street. You have a guy who was detained as a threat, but then still passes a background check? You wouldn’t let him foster a kid-why give him a freaking gun?!

    Thank you for saying this. Of all of the things that could have been done to save all of those lives, the most effective would have been to prevent him from being able to purchase a gun.

  6. peppylady April 18, 2007 at 10:44 pm #

    I do home care and they make such an issue over confrontational. But in light of this I wonder now if they are going to reconsider the confrontational and privacy acts.
    If they do change it I sure hope it doesn’t go so far the other way and everytime some one farts cross way some one calling someone.

    In all honesty there things I will break the privacy act I sign and I don’t mean a little marijuana.
    It would be life threating for me to say anything.

  7. Jennnifer April 19, 2007 at 12:04 am #

    Its the invisible line though. A person can’t be forced to take meds, to seek help. They have to commit a dangerous act in order to be considered dangerous. It sounds silly, but what if someone interpreted your actions as potentially dangerous and locked you up without cause?

    My mother bordered on deadly violence for a very long time. I tried having her committed, but she just wasn’t crazy enough. Even though she was capable of violence, because she hadn’t been caught/charged for the violent acts she committed there was nothing I could do. Really, all I could do was wait for her to hurt herself or someone else. Hence why I chose to never go near her again.

    I feel your frustration. I lived your frustration for many years. Many many years.

  8. Gwen April 19, 2007 at 1:02 am #

    It is maddening. I don’t understand why we haven’t cracked down on guns yet. Seriously? Like a friend of mine says, we can agree to control nicotine, but not guns.

    I had a student once say that he was going to get a gun out of his locker and make everyone pay, he wanted to see us all bleed or some such thing, and I took all the necessary steps and reported him and the response was, girl, please; we don’t have time for this.

    It was ridiculous.

    This is a weird thing to say, I imagine, but I can’t stop thinking about how much pain this guy was in. It was like he was screaming for help at the top of his lungs and no one heard him. Makes me think of the Harry Chapin song about the UT shooting in the 60’s where the gunman says, “how do I know I’m alive?”

  9. karrie April 19, 2007 at 5:10 am #

    You’re right. No one needs a Glock. Gun control, not craziness, is the real issue here. Yes, he could have flipped and hurt one of the women he was stalking (also a big issue which should have been addressed) but without such easy access to a gun, a murdering spree like he indulged in would not have been likely.

    And duh. Murder on campus should mean ]classes are canceled for the rest of the day. I think one of the saddest things I read was how a mom had heard abt the dorm murder and talked with her daughter who said “Oh I;m fine, Mom.” only to die in her french class a few minutes later.

  10. Netter April 19, 2007 at 9:15 am #

    the pendulum has swung the other way. laws inacted to prevent abuse of the mentally ill and encourage mainstreaming now prevent institutions like colleges and universities from helping. with privacy laws the way they are now, the university couldn’t inform Cho’s parents of his problems. gun control is a problem. looking at the UK, one of the reasons they have so few instances of this kind of thing is because it is extremely difficult for regular people to buy guns. i’ve seen some people say that if people had been allowed to carry concealed on the VA tech campus, Cho would have been stopped sooner. my father was an nra member for a while. as an avid hunter he wanted to ensure he could own as many rifles, pistols, and shotguns as he needed or wanted. but, he left when they started working against bans on assault weapons. like you said thora, no one needs a glock because they are only meant for killing people.

  11. Caitlin April 19, 2007 at 12:18 pm #

    To be honest, I’m surprised that there aren’t more shootings like this. It wouldn’t surprise me to find out that every high school, college, and workplace has “that guy”. People like doing the easy, cheapest, and least embarrassing thing. Having to admit your child has serious mental issues is hard, the treatment is probably expensive, and what are you supposed to say when everyone else is bragging about their perfect kids?

    There was a guy who was a bit off and creepy in my cs classes in college. He had a real anger problem and I think he honestly didn’t realize that it wasn’t normal. He was prone to do doing things like throwing temper tantrums in class if he had a problem finishing an assignment.

    After he attacked one of the professors, it came out that he had gone after a few kids at his high school with a knife. The professor embarrassed him after he asked a question that was the equivalent of asking “What’s a button?” when you’re in a third year class about buttons. It took him threatening to make a bomb multiple times in our hardware design class after one of the school shootings for the University people to see that he need some serious help, not another chance to get pissed off at someone.

  12. jkdufair April 19, 2007 at 12:54 pm #

    Let me just play devil’s advocate and say that I would not like to lose the ability to buy a Glock for the very reason the 2nd amendment was created. That I can take out a few of George Bush III’s jack-booted thugs when they come to my door for being a non-Christian hippie who thinks too much.

    Lord I hope that day never comes.

    The question is, how do we defend ourselves against our own increasingly tyrannical government and still prevent what happened at VT? There has to be a way. Soap Box, Ballot Box, Jury Box, Ammo Box – in that order. Let’s hope the first three continue to hold.

  13. thordora April 19, 2007 at 1:05 pm #

    While I see that as well Jason, I don’t buy it.

    The argument people usually provide is “how will I protect myself?” If your government doesn’t set such lax guns laws, it shouldn’t be an issue. Violence creates violence. It’s like hitting your kid to stop them from hitting.

    The people in the US need a good wake up to what has happened to their country. How free are you, if this type of violence haunts your SCHOOLS with alarming frequency and consequences?

    I can’t help but continually parallel Octavia Butler’s “Parable” books when looking at the US right now. I hear what you’re sayign Jason, but is the “might” worth the “is”?

  14. radicalmama April 19, 2007 at 1:33 pm #

    Jason, I also respectfully disagree. We (unfortunately) have an army to defend this nation and civilian militias aren’t necessary. And if the government decides to start cracking down on us hippies, it will be with the full force of a sophisticated military, not a bunch of redcoats lined up like ducks. What would a Glock do in that situation, really? But violence in this society, unlike extreme political oppression, is not hypothetical but reality. And what a Glock will do NOW is kill 30 innocent people. It’s what it is designed to do. But guns or no guns, we will remain a violent society as long as sooo many people are impoverished, uneducated, mysogynist, racist, homophobic, and angry at their miserable existence. I think gun control is a good thing, but social justice and equality can transform.

  15. thordora April 19, 2007 at 1:45 pm #

    Move to canada. The beer is better anyway.

  16. Eden April 19, 2007 at 2:09 pm #

    There are non-lethal alternatives, like stun guns and pepper spray. PErsonally, we have knives, axes, etc. on hand at Rasputin Acres. There’s not a substitute for a great big dog either.

    I agree w/ what Jennifer said. You can’t force someone to take meds and many times people want to look the other way when it comes to mental illness, regardless of degree. When my mother became physically violent and attacked me, I went straight to the police (on foot in the snow no less) and when I returned w/ the officer, she was covering and he chastized *me* and didn’t make any kind of report. There’s no weight given to mental illness. No one wants to talk about it yet everyone has some experience with it (who hasn’t been depressed, for example?) Until we open a dialogue on mental illness and erode the stigmas, in cases like this we won’t be able to move on to issues like gun control and violence against women, which we definitely need to do as well.

  17. Jennnifer April 19, 2007 at 4:29 pm #

    Wait, the right to bear arms? I thought it was the right to arm bears???

    That’s what we must be doing wrong up here in Canada!!

    As far as I know, our laws are simular. But only 22% of our households have firearms.

    Also, death by gun is not that common, probably because we don’t have them stashed everywhere, so we have to be more creative if we really want to see someone dead. Some stats I pulled, in 2000 there were 542 homicides in all of Canada (na na), 183 were via shooting.

  18. bine April 19, 2007 at 5:50 pm #

    i don’t have really a lot to say about this, because i missed a big part of the VT shooting coverage, but i got the same feeling as you, thor.
    somehow i always end up feeling very annoyed about the aftermath of such desasters – there was a case in germany where a young couple killed their little son, they were obviously drug addicts and well known to the german “jugendamt”, an administrative body that seems to be called “children and family court advisory and support service” in england, for having repeatedly beaten their child before admitting him to hospital each time.
    the media went all “what’s wrong with society” and “how can people become so twisted” and even “see what drugs do to people”. nobody asked why there hadn’t been any intervention at some earlier stage. there had been plenty of signs. authorities just failed to react. it seems that everyone thought someone else was taking care of this, or thought it not worth worrying over or whatever. i couldn’t help but think that this could have been avoided if someone had just moved his ass out of his chair and looked into that matter.
    things like this happen too often.
    i think it’s unbelievable how easy it is to get hold of a lethal weapon in the u.s., too. especially if you consider this athmosphere of angst that has settled down on the country. has anyone seen “bowling for columbine”? i don’t agree with michael moore’s polemic style too much, but he has a point.

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