Wednesday, April 18, 2007

Dark writing led to a referral for counseling for Va. Tech gunman

From the AP via the Houston Chronicle:

The gunman suspected of carrying out the Virginia Tech killings that left 32 people and the shooter dead was an English major whose creative writing was so disturbing that he was referred to the school's counseling service.

His classmates knew him only as "the question mark kid." On the first day of British literature class last year, he signed the class roster "?".

Dazed and stricken, the Virginia Tech community struggled Tuesday to come to grips with the killings, as thousands of people gathered in the basketball arena for a memorial service for the victims. Emotions were raw for an overflow crowd of thousands who watched the commemorative service on a jumbo television screen in the football stadium.

More here.

And what he wrote were plays. Sigh. I'll just put that in the Claude Caux and John Wilkes Booth file.

A few observations.

First, as many have already observed, this brings back memories of Columbine, and it's been somewhat painful for me. Dylan and Klebold went on their killing spree at a Colorado high school the first year I was teaching, and for a while there, some of the news accounts were just too much to bear. I remember breaking down and crying when I heard a list of murdered students along with a few personal facts about their lives read on NPR. I guess my being in the high school environment made my sensitivity to the tragedy all too acute.

I find myself in a similar circumstance today. I'm now at a big state university, and it's really hard not to imagine the same thing happening here. I mean, I'm not scared or anything like that. It's just really sad to look at the faces of the young people walking around campus and think about their lives being snuffed out so violently, so pointlessly. My classmate Anna, who is from Virgina, told us today that she knew one of the victims. She was visibly disturbed while doing so. Once again, my sensitivity to this is acute.

Second, I fear that there's going to be a blame-fest, which usually accompanies these events. I suppose that's natural, but what good will it do? Short of squashing American gun culture, these days a seemingly impossible task, I can't imagine what could have been done differently to avoid this. As Atrios over at Eschaton says:

Large residential college campuses are like small cities, places where people live, work, and study. Calling for absurd things like random bag checks and metal detectors in such an environment is like calling for such things on city streets.

Hopefully, sane heads will prevail this time. I mean, colleges are generally much more civilized and liberal than high schools, so it's unlikely that the extreme and militaristic security crackdown that came nationwide in the wake of Columbine will repeat itself. But then, the LSU PD was out in heavy force today. Who knows? These are psychotic times.

Third, I heard a guy on Air America today pointing out that this is how it is every day in Baghdad. Every fucking day. Massacre after massacre. Why are human beings so violent? Why do we kill all the fucking time?

Okay, I've got to stop writing now. This is just too much.