Wednesday, April 25, 2007

Rhetorical Why

It was one week ago now—a week since young Seung-Hui Cho opened fire on the campus of Virginia Tech, killing 32, wounding over 20, scarring an entire school community, shocking the entire world.

Since then, the question “why?” has been explored from so many angles, becoming an obsession of sorts.

Some friends and family members of the victims have reportedly expressed dismay over the attention given to Cho, saying that what’s more important are the lives of those who died.

Still, I’m hard-pressed to believe that “why?” doesn’t haunt them. I’ll give them the benefit of the doubt: maybe some really couldn’t care less about the killer now. But the “why?” for those persons will eventually come, and will eventually be a source of worry—replacing, perhaps, the current state of grieving.

Perhaps they express no interest for they feel Cho does not deserve the attention. Well, I can’t argue there. I don’t, however, think it is positive attention he’s getting. I suppose some solace can be found in that. Still, his is an attention ultimately needed for some sort of closure—however impossible that may seem now.

Will the fact that Cho was an unstable kid make his killing all those people any better or worse? Of course not. But “why?” in this case holds a more rhetorical weight. The explanations will never be enough, for they will never bring those 32 persons back to life. Still, the explanations are needed, just to fill a part of a void left behind by the terror.

But then again, I can’t really blame these persons who supposedly don’t care about Cho’s story. The explanations “experts” have come up with makes for riveting news watching/reading, but can objectively seem a bit too bizarre.

So he was a loner. So he wrote a couple of eerie stories. I’m sure many a psychologist are trained to read into these details. They focus on the killing scenes in Cho’s stories, and they take it so literally, as if all the great writers who had the knack for violence in their works had murderous tendencies in real life as well. That’s preposterous.

I wrote a short story about a kid in love with a guitar. I don’t play an instrument and have no intention on trying anytime soon. A talented blockmate has become infamous for writing stories about pedophilia and peculiar sexual inclinations. Nothing in his real life mimics such things.

Well, I do believe all writing is autobiographical in a way. I can’t defend my blockmate’s work, but I personally deal a lot with silence or a lack of communication and things left unsaid. If a psychologist were to say that my character’s obsession with guitar and music was symbolic of my desire to break the silence with the beauty of raw sincerity, he or she wouldn’t be wrong. But such conclusions can’t always be made so easily.

I think it was Bill Clinton who said in an interview that Virginia Tech is to psychological issues what Columbine was to gun control. He may be right. And many celebrity psychologists (Dr. Phil and crew) have been taking advantage.

They all speak of the “signs” that pointed to such a massacre. But then arises the issue of how you approach exploring a “sign,” for there comes a point when maybe you’re reading things the wrong way or reading things too hard.

That’s what makes everything so complicated. And it’s the reason, perhaps, why some friends and family members of Cho’s victims can be so skeptical about the investigations.

The most anyone can do is speculate, to attempt to empathize. The proposed answers will probably never satisfy the “why?” It’s true: maybe sometimes there really is no “why?” rather only an “is.” But try saying that to the friends and family of those killed.

Expert investigations may only lead to educated results of the imagination. But that’s probably far better than just letting the imaginations of friends and family run wild. That could lead to something awful—likely not as horrific as last Monday, but perhaps no less tragic.


Sitting with you by the church parking lot, with wind blowing semblances of yellow flowers to our feet, with the imagined threat of dealers offering us something, with obsessive mothers and lolas texting, with midnight beckoning marking my dad’s 53rd birthday, I’m left to wonder how it came to be that we’ve run out of things to say save for a few musings about airports and airplanes.

Is there something that needs to be discussed or did we just skip that something or am I just questioning things because I just can’t sleep?

A half-hour after I walked you home I’m clockwatching and restless amidst the subtext of silence.


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