Search | Archive | Categories
During the past week, I've had some good discussions with some Korean friends about what happened at Virginia Tech with Seung-hui Cho murdering 32 people, wounding another 29, and then killing himself.

I was talking with a Korean pastor and he brought up a good point. He said that Korean families (and Asians in general) concentrate on academic results and little about what goes on in the heart. As long as the kids are getting straight A's, that is what is most important. Parents rarely discuss how the kids are feeling, what emotions they are having, their social life, etc.

In the Cho family statement, Sun-Kyung Cho said, "Now I feel like I didn't know this person." But, did they ever really know this person? I think it's obvious he has harbored anger and bitterness in his heart for several years. But did anyone in his immediate family know this? Would he have felt comfortable enough to be able to share it with his family (or even anyone else)?

I'm not trying to specifically fault the Cho family. I think that us Asians as a whole (especially men) don't really get into each others' souls and hearts. We have to put up a "face". We have to conform to the expectations of high academic and professional standards. This is actually one of the main things my wife faults me for. I'm a responsible person and does a good job at work. But, I rarely open up and reveal my heart. I'm generally a stoic and reserved person. (Which actually I find to be an asset while debating) But, it doesn't help in a marriage where the wife likes to "talk".

Though I'm generalizing here, I think Asian men tend to hold back their emotions. But then will release it during "blow-ups". Like a volcano, the pressure just mounts on the inside, but nothing is really evident until an explosion occurs. We don't really know how to process emotions. But that doesn't mean we don't have them. And it's got to come out eventually and it's usually when we are no longer able to hold them in.

One way that emotions can be expressed is through friendships. If a man is lucky enough to have some close friends that he trusts enough, he could share some of the things that is going on with him. Some hurts that he's going through, disappointments he's experienced, love that has been spurned, financial losses in the stock market, a job interview that didn't go well, etc. And judging from what I read about Seung-hui, there was not a single person he could talk with.

Emotions can also be expressed through literature or the arts. I find it quite interesting that Seung-hui's major was English. Perhaps it was the only way that he was able to express any of his emotions. And judging from his plays, he certainly did have a lot of negative emotions.

Though he did not seem to have reach out to anybody, there were instances of others who reached out to him - his roommate and one of his professors. But, ultimately they could not break in to him. But I wonder if the right type of person had tried then things might've turned out differently. Perhaps an older Korean American that could empathize with being a loner and an outcast might've been able to relate to him.

I interpret him taking the time to record the video of himself and sending it to NBC as his final statement. And I read it as "To the world, I am not a nobody. I am not weak. I am able to kill a bunch of people. And I accept no responsibility for it because other people made me do this."

I fear also that there will be more school massacres and that it will escalate in casualties. In order to be famous, a killer will have to set a new record. And if one is able to achieve it, that person will be able to go down in history.

Stricter gun control has been raised. And though I was against it before, I'm now leaning for it. I would now be supportive of having some more practical ways of limiting the availability of guns for citizens. Before, I argued that guns is not the problem, but the people behind guns. But, now, I don't trust the people anymore. Guns can be fine for people who are responsible and sane. But, I'm afraid that we are seeing more people now who are irresponsible and not so sane.

Others have also made the good point that guns have made it too easy to commit suicide and to kill others. Without guns, it's much more difficult to kill oneself and to murder 32 people. If Seung-hui didn't have guns, probably the worst that he could do is jump off a bridge.

Gun control though is a difficult area to tackle and does not have any simple solutions. But, now I am supportive of the need to do something.

And with the issue of guns, I see the US as having a culture of violence. There's no way to watch the news without having some report of violence in it. The movies portray all the time that shooting someone is no big deal. Video games also desensitize us to violence. Music that kids listen to also have violent lyrics. I'm not blaming the media and the entertainment industry for creating the violent culture, but I would say that it feeds off each other. And unfortunately, we export a lot of the images of violence to other countries.

What are some takeaways from the tragedy?

I think all of us are capable of doing heinous acts if pushed long enough. Perhaps we won't kill 32 strangers, but it could be something that we would not normally do. And one of the best ways to avoid it is to not isolate ourselves. We need to have some mature circle of friends that we can open up to. We need to be able to have some constructive way to express our negative emotions.

And if we do see someone in a downward spiral, we should try to reach out to that person. Perhaps we might not be the best person, but we should try to find someone who will be able to reach out to him.

And Asian parents need to realize that academics is not the only part of life. We need to reach our children's hearts as well as their minds.

Posted: 2007-04-25 15:21:42

<< My hard drive crashedVirginia Tech Massacre >>