MADNESS AND CIVILIZATION-THE CHO EPISODE by Tan Zhang

Since the VT shooting happened on April 16, the foremost inquiry is regarding the nationality and the citizenship status of the shooter. Particularly, after several witnesses released the information that he is an Asian male, the whole Chinese community (probably the Asian community) was disturbed.
At the same night, Michael Sneed (1), a reporter who works for Chicago Sun-Times, made the first announcement about the nationality of the shooter. She reported that the shooter was a Chinese national who arrived in the United States last year on an F-1 visa issued in Shanghai, China in 2005. Her report, published before authorities had made any announcement about the shooter’s identity, was widely cited by mass media across the globe, including FOX News, MSNBC, ABC News, sina.com and sohu.com (the last two are most popular Chinese news websites). Many American readers soon generated racist comments and attributed the tragedy to Chinese Community regime (2)
Right after this news was reported by these major media, Chinese students in the United States started a fierce cyber discussion (3). Some students said, “sorry for these families (who lost their beloved), but from some perspectives, it is good since it tells Americans that we are not docile. If you piss me off, I can do something really bad.” Another group seriously doubted the reliability of this news released by Chicago Sun. They didn’t believe that a Chinese nerdy graduate student can become such an “efficient” killer in such a short time, since the armory is banned in China. What the last group concerned about is that the U.S. government may lift the bar for student visa application and change the immigration policies.
When the nationality of the shooter was finally identified by the police, the Chinese cyber community was suddenly relieved and turned to discuss how to differentiate “We” from Koreans. Their major statement is that, Chinese haters wound not kill innocent people. As one of the students said, “This Korean psychic put us in a very difficult position. We can’t even be nerds any more! We are ALL freaks in Americans’ eyes. But I still want to be a nerd, if I have to choose one out of the two.” In the meantime, another group of Chinese students started a campaign to sue Chicago Sun for the irresponsible and misleading news. In addition, many Chinese students claim that the most urgent thing to do is to join the American community and send spiritual or monetary supports (if possible) to the victims’ families.
From April 18, more and more details about the shooter are released to the public. Cho’s pictures in which he is holding weapon with violent expression occupy the headline of newspapers and websites. His body is placed at a secondary position compared with his weapon. It seems indicating a weaponized body, knowing nothing but killing. When his Islamic tattoo is decoded by various experts, the media seems to imply that there is a connection between the violent Korean alien resident to the terrorists in the Middle East. I believe, sooner or later, Cho’s image will be related to the unpredictable regime of North Korea. His Americanness, however, will never be addressed.
What’s the next step? The president of the University has send out e-mails, urging to review the security procedure. The risk prevention project will be extended to the very molecular level. Psychological counseling is opening to minority students who have abnormal words and behaviors. Minority students, especially the Asian loners, will be encouraged to go to counseling voluntarily. Their teachers and advisors also have the responsibilities to suggest them to take the service. In addition, teachers have the responsibilities to cooperate with the police department to prevent alike tragedy from happening. I bet this is the reason that Chinese students want to draw the line between the shooter and them. However, what they don’t see or refuse to see is that, “we” are all in the same boat.
After experiencing the madness, no matter you show your sympathy or not, we have to embrace a new civilization.

Notations:
1) For more information about Michael Sneed, please see: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Michael_Sneed

2) For detailed information, please see: http://freerepublic.com/focus/f-news/1818566/posts?q=1&;page=56#56

3) The discussion happened in www.mitbbs.com. Mitbbs is the biggest Chinese on-line community in the United States with more than 100, 000 registered users. Its founder was a Ph.D. student at the MIT who experienced the 1989 Tiananmen upheaval. When founded, the forum was expected to be a space for exchanging democratic thoughts. The original domain is bbs.mit.edu. When the founder graduated from the MIT in 2001, he couldn’t keep the domain name and provide technical support for it. In the same year, the forum was commercialized and changed its domain name to the current name. It currently is a place to exchange living tips and academic ideas.

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5 thoughts on “MADNESS AND CIVILIZATION-THE CHO EPISODE by Tan Zhang

  1. Interesting, but is the point more that “we” (as in the Virginia Tech community as a whole as well as all of us at Universities and indeed within [US] society as a whole) have to look at ourselves somewhat. Of course, the shooter is culpable and committed an horrific act for which there can be no excuse and our concerns and thoughts rest quite rightly with the families of all who have died. But, rather than addressing the isolation of one Korean male, should we not look to ourselves and use this event to have critical and important discussions across multiple cleavages (race, gender, sexuality and so on) as to how we contribute to various individuals isolation. I am sure we have all done it, if soemone if witdrawn, isolated or even different, we all have, at different times, further constituted that isolation through ignorance, ignoring, cruel commentary, lack of effort to include and so on…. My hope is that an event such as this will promote important dialogue that addresses social isolation, our role within others isolation and the ‘structures’ that allow (or ignore as seemed to be the case) for such isoloation to form part of this, and all of, society.

  2. I think it’s interesting to see how events repeat themselves through time. Not necessarily events that are of the same action, but events that strive towards the same purpose of making people aware of a particular cause. And after events like this occur, there is usually a stereotype placed on a certain group of people as a new collective hatred is form (and in my opinion just leads towards more terrorist-type actions). After 9/11 the American people viewed all Arabs as dangerous. Although the shooting at Columbine happened years ago, I still fear students in my classes that wear all black and long trench coats. Ironically, these people who perform these actions are trying to get Americans to be more aware of different conflicts and situations; they’re trying to reduce stereotypes, but all they succeed in doing really is supporting stereotypes while bringing the community together. The VA tragedy has created an extended community that many, especially colleges in close vicinity, feel apart of.

  3. I am Chinese, so on one side I can understand why many Chinese students were upset by the false reporting and then why they wanted to define themselves from the Koreans. Being Asian, I often feel like people are are not Asian group all the Asian classifications (Chinese, Korean, Japanese, Philipino, etc) together – like someone who looks Asian is automatically Chinese, so I can understand these students need to redefine themselves apart from Koreans. On the other hand, I think in an incident like this is it much more crucial to look at the isolation and personality of the shooter rather than the race of the shooter. The race of Cho Seung-Hui has nothing to do with his motivations for acting that day. Although it is hard to look back on something like this and say “I could have told someone about him” or “I thought that was weird, I should have done something,” perhaps future warning signs should be based on actions and comments rather than race.

  4. I feel tragedies like these only end up with a whole group to be blamed rather than the individual who actually did it. Although the shooter at VT could have been anybody with the same deranged mentatility, many people have developed a greater fear for Korean students. People need to realize they can’t act differently towards a group of people (in this case Koreans) when that group of people did nothing. When a person does something wrong, it’s that person who did it. It’s that person who had the negative motivations and mindset, not that person’s race or even religion. If we want to deal with problems like what happened at VT, we have to deal with us as individuals, not us as stereotypes.

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