The Malignant Resentments …

… That Erupted Into Mass Murder In Virginia, by David Walsh, published 20 April 2007 on World Socialist Web, re-published 21 April 2007 on

Excerpt of a long text: … The appeals to “move on” from officials combine callousness and stupidity. This has become a terrible cliché, repeated again and again, and directed against critical thought and feeling. No, people should not “move on.” ‘Enough, back to business!’ Here is the backwardness and indifference of the entire social superstructure, which cannot and will not look the reality it has created in the face. It is part of the ongoing refusal to analyze or understand. The attempt to transform every mass gathering at the Virginia Tech campus into a “pep rally” has something perverse and unseemly about it.

“Normalcy never comes back,” nor should it. Everyone in America and around the world knows this is not the last such atrocity. This could happen in any part of the country, it is a matter of the nation’s social pathology.

The coarsest and most ignorant response, not unexpectedly, comes from the editors of the Wall Street Journal, mouthpiece for the speculators and swindlers who have looted trillions from the US and world economy. The Journal’s April 18 editorial argues that the Virginia Tech disaster is “the kind of traumatic event that unleashes a torrent of pop sociology and national psychoanalysis, so allow us to weigh in with a more fundamental explanation: There are evil and psychotic people in the world willing to do great harm to others if they aren’t stopped.”

On the contrary, much of what we know about Cho and his descent into madness underlines the social character of the Virginia Tech tragedy, its intimate and all too painful connection to the present state of American society, both in terms of the eventual gunman’s own disorientation and the inability of the university system or community at large to care for him.

No one can argue in this case that there were not warning signs. It seems that Cho, the product of an arranged marriage between a man 10 years older than his apparently reluctant bride, did not have a happy upbringing. As a child, Cho was nearly mute; some in the family thought he might have mental problems. His parents ran a used-book store in South Korea, which was not profitable, and lived in a cramped basement apartment. They emigrated to the US in 1992 with very little.

The boy had difficulties in his new American school. He “was picked on, pushed around and laughed at over his shyness” (Associated Press) as a schoolboy in the Washington, D.C., suburb of Centreville, Virginia. In high school, Cho earned A’s in mathematics. When he started college, according to the Guardian, “his mother took his dormitory mates to one side to explain about her son’s unusual character and implored them to help.”

He spoke to others, his roommates, classmates and professors at Virginia Tech as little as possible. He sometimes referred to himself as “Question Mark” and spoke in whispers. One of his dormitory suite mates told CNN that “he was just like a shadow.”

Difficulties came alarmingly to the surface in 2005. He annoyed two female students with his messages and attention. His sullen and angry conduct in class provoked the ire of one of his professors, who insisted that he be removed from her course. When Cho indicated in December 2005 that he might kill himself, a temporary detention order was obtained from a judge and he was taken to a mental health facility. A doctor evaluated him and reported that he was mentally ill but no imminent danger to himself or others. There is no record of any follow-up or subsequent treatment.

Various professors seem to have done all they could personally for Cho. Lucinda Roy, the head of the English department at Virginia Tech, in particular, took it upon herself to tutor him one-on-one after his removal from the problem class, as well as to warn authorities. She found him deeply troubled, “I was concerned that he was suicidal, that he was depressed. There was a negativity. It was like talking to a hole. There was such an absence when he entered a room. Everything just emptied out and it turned very dark.”

Numerous people individually attempted to help, but, in the end, the university system treated his difficulties in a pro forma manner, as it does in so many instances. The university could have done more, without question, but there is no institutional or police solution to generalized social alienation.

A recent study of the Anxiety Disorders Association of America (ADAA) notes that “Nearly all survey respondents at both national universities and liberal arts colleges reported an increase in student usage of mental health services throughout the past three years.” They go on: “Schools see a growing number of students coming to college with a history of mental illness, increased anxiety after 9/11 and increased awareness of mental health issues” … (full text).

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