Ripples of hate

  • April 27, 2007
The horrendous violence at Virginia Tech did not end with the 33 fatalities and other wounded. It did not end with the gaping holes left in the lives of the mothers, fathers, siblings, relatives and friends of the victims. It did not even end with the shattering of peace and security at this American university.
The deliberate act of massacre by Cho Seung-hui sent ripples of hate around the world. The visceral anger and sense of spite toward all humanity — seen in the photos and words of this tormented killer in the mass media following the fateful shootings — can be felt almost personally. It pierces every soul, calling us to question why Cho hated his fellow students so much, why he hated himself, why he hated the world. And then it calls out for response.

This can be on several levels, many of them justified. There was a legitimate worry about campus security and how Cho could have gone on his rampage with such measured deliberation, taking his time, before police finally came. Yet there is no security blanket so impenetrable that a determined psychopath can’t find a weakness.

There is also the inevitable debate over gun control. Sadly, the debate this time in the United States was muted. Too many legislators and commentators accepted with resignation that the world’s most gun-ridden society will continue to remain so, even with the dead not yet buried. That’s not to say gun control would have prevented the shootings; it was only a little over six months ago that Canada witnessed its own much smaller version of Virginia Tech at Montreal’s Dawson College. Yet it could be argued that the fact only one person died and 20 were injured is some evidence that Canada’s stricter gun laws prevented the tragedy from being even worse. In Virginia, a student with a known history of mental instability was allowed to legally buy two handguns without any restraint. Surely, there is a lesson there that shouldn’t be ignored.

In the aftermath of the shootings at Virginia Tech, people did what they always do when faced with inconsolable grief. They turned to those they loved. This included God, as the churches and impromptu religious services were packed with people.

Even in Canada, there were prayers for the dead and those they touched. At the Newman Centre, the Catholic chaplaincy at the University of Toronto, candles were lit for all 33 of the dead (including the killer) and prayers were offered for them at all the weekend Masses. The prayers helped to deal with the grief and anxiety that even in Toronto, hundreds of kilometres away, university students experienced.

Life is not simple and there is no single response to Virginia Tech. Yet, along with the necessary consideration of the practical matters of campus security and gun control, we human beings cannot ignore the wounds to our souls. They are just as real and just as in need of healing.

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