A lesson from Virginia massacre: It's probably going to happen again

The human psyche - such a profound and indecipherable apparatus of everything and nothing. It is by turn an academy for the wise, sanctuary for the lonely and despondent, ward of refuge to the sick, and chamber of horrific scheme for the diabolic.

The brain is the attic loft to the tower of our body. For some, reaching that loft is a quick and smooth elevator lift to the top. For others, it takes a slower escalator or maybe even a slower staircase climb. The quick elevator rise could also break down on the way, or even suffer from a faulty cable that forces it to suddenly crash to the floor of the shaft.

Who would have known that the recent homicide-suicide incident in the parking lot of the 7-Eleven on North Carson Street played as a preview excerpt to the full-length theatrical presentation of 32 victims being gunned down like arcade targets by student Seung-Hui Cho (who then committed suicide) at Virginia Tech this week.

I have always been attracted (and then repelled) by the psychological hardware that assembles the human monster. Somewhere hidden and coiled up beneath the dusty floor boards of our cerebral attic space are audio wires that amplify the unspeakable in all of us. Those tightly spun wires can be snapped and uncoiled by the most dangerous narcotic of them all - human emotion. The medicinal restorers of emotional balance come in vials labeled "Laughter," "Weeping," "Love" and "Violence." Alcohol? Drugs? Those are just substances that nourish the fertile fields of our minds' eclectic harvest of thought and intention.

Whenever shocking tragedies like the Virginia Tech massacre happen, forensic diagnostics become the impetus of endless, if not interesting, coffee cake conversation that is conclusively meaningless in terms of the damage done. On Good Morning America, Diane Sawyer seemed fascinated this week with Cho's favorite song that he played ad nauseam - "Shine" by Collective Soul - as she struggled to interpret how the lyrics may have been prophetic to Cho's stoically methodical slayings. The CD that "Shine" is on sold millions of copies. Hell, I've liked that song since its release in 1994. So what does that mean? Nothing. That's what. Nothing. And neither do the lyrics in relation to Cho's mental anguish and violent manifestation. No more than the Beatles throwaway song "Piggies" served as rhetorical influence for Charles Manson's fatal slashing of Sharon Tate in 1969.

More to the point were Cho's suite mates, who seemed to offer the most logical retrospect to the denouement when they told journalists that although their attempts to engage the 23-year-old Asian in conversation resulted in one-word, dead-eyed and emotionless responses, they had no real reason to suspect anything aside from his weird preference to be left alone, and his occasionally offbeat sleeping habits.

Psychologists, journalists, police officers and Virginia Tech administrators can think and talk until the next slaughter takes place elsewhere, but we will unquestionably relive this history, having learned nothing from it - just like the United States will face the imminent surprise of another terrorist attack.

All I have heard is how we will learn from this all. Really? Learn what exactly? What did we learn from Columbine that would have prevented Cho's dogged and deliberated ambush? In the end, the maniacal incident at Columbine taught us nothing. The volcanic blood-gush at Virginia Tech will teach us nothing. All it teaches us is that our First Amendment rights will prevent us from doing anything about those we suspect, and those whom we do not suspect will be drafting blueprints of their own version of annihilation. There must be substantial proof that a person seriously intends to harm him or herself or others before any arrest. If arrests were made because of the music we listen to, the movies we watch, the poetry we write, the words we use in conversation, all of us would eligible for arrest. The post-mortem allegation that Cho stalked a few girls on campus should have been a sign of his mental instability can be said of any male college student. Females, too.

It all still goes back to the egg. Behavioral patterns incubate at home, yes. But they really begin their growth cycle the first day we are born. Any one of us is capable of hurting someone, just like any one of us is capable of loving someone. Love and hate are emotions of equal power, and the physical action that is set off by either of those emotions - be it sexual intercourse, violence, or murder, or a sequential actuation of all three - brings pleasure to the person who carries out the commands of those dictatorial governing powers of the human psyche. Lovers, artists, writers, rapists, murderers - the truly major difference between them all, and anyone at all for that matter, is the polar point that magnetizes them to discourse their emotional expression. And once we find what we really want, and how to respond to our drives, we will do what is needed to satisfy those impulses. Anyone who kills 32 people with such icy precision cannot and could not be denied from completing the mission.

No doubt the school is at fault for the extent of the killings. The school couldn't have prevented the killing of the first victim, or maybe even the first five or 10, but certainly a death toll of 32. No quick and resolute reaction. No alarm. No campus lockdown. Also at fault is the state of Virginia. Maybe the state should be a bit more discriminatory in its background and personality investigations prior to issuing gun permits. The ease in which Cho was able to purchase his guns and ammunition was far greater than it was for me to get my driver's license and car registration converted in Nevada.

Be assured of one thing - our world, our country - is populated with many craniums filled with demons. Nut cases that make the clinically insane seem docile by contrast, because the nuts I'm referring to are walking around us.

Look at the schools that locked down in answer to threats soon after the Virginia Tech shootings. Our own University of Nevada, Reno was one of them. After the newscasters have exhausted themselves of aftermath musings and retro-judgmental theories, they will find that Virginia Tech is responsible for the absurdly large number of killings over two and one-half hours.

Could they or anyone else have prevented Cho from carrying out the smallest degree of his schemed executions? No way. And newscasters will once again have the opportunity to preach their could-haves and should-haves, and how-could-it-be wisdoms of cause the next time such tragedy breathes its fire of dominance. And those wisdoms will mean about as much to prevention of the same happening yet again as would our wonderment and hypothetical what-if and should-have-done offerings about Columbine, or Waco, or Oklahoma City, or 9/11.

• John DiMambro is publisher of the Nevada Appeal. Write to him at jdimambro@nevadaappeal.com.


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