The violent outbursts of Cho Seung Hui, the student madman who killed 30 of his classmates and wounded more than 30 others at Virginia Tech, may well be the result of the boomerang effect, which returns to the source whatever is sent outwards.
In other words, I think Frankenstein-like psychopaths like Hui emerge from the values and symbols that shape America.
When you look at the more than 3,000 U.S. soldiers killed in Iraq, the killing spree in Virginia, and the hate speech of Don Imus, it is time to hold a mirror up to ourselves.
Is our normal course of hypocritical acts coming back to haunt us? We say we want peace and a civil society, but we pay our peace providers, such as daycare workers and teachers, peanuts compared to the millions paid to the hate-carriers in the media and entertainment world. We are obsessed with war, power, gun ownership and the constant display of soft pornography and gratuitous violence in the media, all of which are accepted as normal behavior.
First of all, people — whether politicians, rappers, preachers — who engage in vitriolic character assassinations, gansta rap songs targeting women for abuse or shock jocks that comb society to hold the powerless and helpless up for public ridicule are stoking the flames of violence. Witness the new sport of stomping and beating the homeless in some U.S. cities.
Moreover, hate wrapped up in violence is part of the capitalistic system that begins a selling spree to our children at an early age. Once, I happened to watch some of the cartoons my 5-year-old niece was watching. Some of the lifelike characters were bloodied and battered before being utterly destroyed. Moreover any parents who have monitored kid-level video games understand that death and destruction is a billion dollar kiddy enterprise.
Equally devastating is the fact that the United States has lowered the bar on when killing is justifiable and acceptable.
Right now we are engaged in a war that is killing U.S. soldiers, Iraqi troops and civilians by the thousands for no justifiable reason, except Iraqi oil. We need it. We take it because we have the billions to finance a war, the firepower to execute it and the lies to defend it. We make our points, even the freedom to choose a democratic form of government, with tanks, bombs and bullets.
So following this national prescription, certain twisted individuals arm themselves to carry out their own twisted mandates of taking what they want and enforcing their will on others — even to the point of mass killings. Their craziness is empowered by a gun lobby that makes their weapons of mass destruction readily available to any nutcase with a buck. In the District of Columbia, the Republicans and the gun lobbies are working to knock down the ban on hand guns, in a city where Black-on-Black homicide is already an outrageous scandal. Before the month is out, the total number of violent deaths in many cities in the United States will surpass the tragedy in Virginia.
Another ingredient in this volatile stew is the scarcity of systems that help people deal with their pain and anguish, according to Dr. Michelle Balamani, a psychotherapist in Largo, Md. As a culture, we have trouble acknowledging the pain and anguish people are trying to deal with. We expect them to stuff it, put it out of the way and move on.
In schools we focus on the mind, not feelings, Balamani says. We must teach young and old how to do an emotional inventory, how to respond to hateful incidents without violence or the use of alcohol and drugs. There are acceptable ways to deal with pain without hateful thoughts that trigger a violent response. But we must invest in solutions.
Unfortunately, as the Virginia Tech shootings show, even when there is undeniable proof that a person is a "mental case," the individuals fall between the cracks of broken or non-existent mental health systems. On campuses there are few counselors or mental health services available, and in urban areas both are rare indeed.
Now is the time to look within. We must examine our own actions in our homes, what programs baby-sit our children, the hateful name-calling on our public airwaves, the shoddy rationales for war and invasion and the excusing of hateful gangsta-rap lyrics.
If what we truly want is a peaceful and civil society, then we must stop aiding and abetting so much violence and hate.
Dr. Barbara A. Reynolds, an author and ordained minister, is a radio talk show host on XM satellite radio.