The Most Controversial Post You'll Ever Read Today

I’m going to take a risk here and hope that I don’t end up having the cops investigate me for something that I only imagined.


"Professors and classmates were alarmed by [Cho Seung-Hui ‘s] class writings — pages filled with twisted, violence-drenched writing.

"It was not bad poetry. It was intimidating," poet Nikki Giovanni, one of his professors, told CNN Wednesday. "At first I thought, OK, he’s trying to see what the parameters are. Kids curse and talk about a lot of different things. He stayed in that spot. I said, ‘You can’t do that.’ He said, ‘Yes, I can.’ I said, ‘No, not in my class.’""Associated Press

The summer before my junior year of high school, I took a Health class. (The reason why eludes me.) One of my assignments – I will never forget this – was to write three reasons why suicide was bad.

Ha, ha, ha. I tried to be "creative" and wrote three reasons why suicide was good. First reason: It’s a very noble way to die as exemplified by the Japanese Kamikazes and the Romans during Julius Caesar’s time. I think my second reason had something to do with maintaining a legacy and protecting a family from shame.  I can’t remember my third reason, but by that point, I was reaching.

We read our responses aloud in class. My health teacher was NOT amused and my classmates found me a little more than disturbing at that point. She pulled me out of class to determine if I was suicidal. Apparently, I wasn’t convincing so my parents were contacted and I was referred to a school district counselor. The whole situation amused me. I was 75% joking, 25% serious. I was trying to convince myself why suicide was a good thing and in the end, realized I could barely provide three reasons why. My counselor interrogated me to gauge how suicidal I was.

"Yeah, I have a history of suicide attempts," I said. "But I was only trying to be creative. I wasn’t really serious."

"Do you have any suicidal thoughts?" she asked repeatedly.

"Nope," I countered.

"You sure?" she asks.

"Yup. I’m fine. Life is great." (Of all the times in my life, I was in a good place at that moment.)

When I was a junior in high school, the Columbine school shooting took place. While my classmates found themselves scared and horrified, I sat smirking in my seat. I thought to myself, "It’s about time us weirdos defended ourselves! All you stupid assholes who pick on us are totally getting your just desserts!" Eric Harris and Dylan Klebold were nonconformists, and thusly, picked on, bullied around, and teased. As a junior going through what I considered hell in high school, I could totally relate.  I found myself in the same position that year – without access to guns, where to find them, and the like – wanting to commit homicide on a mass scale at that school.

I had a hit list. I listed every teacher I hated and every classmate who tormented me. And I wanted to be the one to take their lives away.

I made a map of the school. The places I could enter, do enough damage, and where I could get out and escape with the highest possibility of escaping surrounding police. (In retrospect, there wasn’t anywhere really.) The hit list and maps are all gone. A lot of my anger has died too. I still carry some of it around with me because it’s been there so long, but the farther I get from my senior year of high school, the more I begin to heal and forgive. (I’ve also become a born-again Christian since then.)

Adults are oblivious to the angst, anger, and rage that builds up inside adolescents. If a someone grows up getting teased, parents often say, "Don’t listen to them. They don’t know what they’re saying. Just ignore them."

Do you know HOW many times I heard the words "Just ignore them"??? When I went to school and heard the same things day after day after day after day, it’s impossible to just "ignore them." Try being schizophrenic and ignoring the voices in your head. Go ahead – I dare you; it’s nigh unto impossible.

Everybody damn well knows now that Harris and Klebold didn’t ignore "them." And despite the murder-suicide, at the time, I badly envied Harris and Klebold. I wanted to show my classmates and teachers who was boss. That I wasn’t some stupid pussy they could shove around and make fun of.

So I sat in the back corner of classrooms, trying to be the girl that everyone thought would do a school shooting. I had my poetry journal that I scribbled in all day. My poetry was angry spewing nothing but hate for some of my classmates and teachers. I made Alanis Morissette’s first mainstream U.S. album look like butterflies and sunshine. I hid in dark classrooms and in the bathroom pouring my rage out on paper. My words were bullets that could harm whoever I wanted without the result leading to my arrest.

Virginia Tech shooter Cho Seung-Hui’s motives for the shooting spree are still unclear. It is widely speculated that he was spurred on by a recent breakup. The preparation that went into the shooting, however, seems like it may have taken a while. I don’t know how long ago his relationship may have ended. After my second relationship went sour, I was pretty angry, but not enough to kill my ex or other innocent people.

It also seems as though he may have been on medication for depression. His "increasingly violent and erratic behavior" also seemed to coincide with taking the medication. Hah – I wonder he’ll be counted as suicide and homicide data for whatever medication he was taking.

What’s the difference between Columbine and VTech for me? I’m past my rage and angst. In 1998, I found my weapons and ammunition through my poetry. I held myself hostage and eventually was able to free myself. Now, in 2007, I can find compassion and sympathy for victims and their families. I’m saddened to see the faces of the bright flames that were snuffed out in an instant. But I can also find compassion for the shooter as well – quotes from the media have streamed in about how bizarre and odd Cho was. His roommate even noticed strange and unusual behavior. The only person who seemed to have taken preventive action was his former creative writing teacher, famed poet Nikki Giovanni. No one else tried to get Cho help. No one attempted to reach out to him – no Caucasian, African America, Muslim, South Korean, Christian, what have you. Everyone allowed Cho to build a cocoon and live inside himself until he burst out taking 33 people down with him.

Those who knew Cho and did not attempt to find him help are responsible for the shooting that day just as much as Cho himself. Society can’t continue to pin an individual or gun-control laws down as the reason for these events. We all gossip about the person who could go nuts and shoot a place up. Instead, we could try to reach out to that person to prevent that from happening.

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8 Comments

  1. April 18, 2007 at 7:56 pm

    Yesterday I was writing about this in my blog, but I didn’t touch on any psychological issues. I wanted to, but at the same time was hesitant to really write about him and just the situation at hand. I’m glad someone did have the guts to point this out though. I don’t know if I can sympathize with him, but I do agree that people should have reached out to him and got him help long ago. It seems as though his problems stemmed all the way back from high school…so that’s a damn long time for people to leave something like that unchecked.

  2. Ruth said,

    April 19, 2007 at 10:09 am

    Hi Marissa,
    I ‘ll admit I thought “what the?” when I first saw the thread title, but now that I’ve read it – congratulations for being brave enough to demonstrate that Cho, as horrendous as his deeds are, is not “the Other”; that sometimes the difference between teenage mass murderer and self-aware, self-reflective adult boils down to well-mapped roads not taken, choices not made, chance encounters with people who snap us out of our fantasizing or, more likely, just maturity combined with fortuitous changes in circumstances running its course in conjunction with a lack of access to firearms. Of course this high risk dance is conducted across a substrate of earlier and/or current trauma, such as the bullying and alienation that you describe, and this is worth identifying for preventative purposes. It’s just law-and-order festishist rhetoric to insist that to explain is to excuse.
    It seems that many in the consumer / survivor / ex-user blogosphere are solely preoccupied with disavowing any relationship between their particular diagnosis and Cho’s massacre. I realise this is both self-protective and an attempt to minimise the surge in stigmatisation of people with mental health issues that inevitably follows such disasters, but I guess I feel that brutal honesty and allowing for a plurality of experiences is the best way forward when it comes to getting the rest of the community to understand and accept what it is like for us. Often enough, this results in many people, including open-minded so-called ‘normals’ who would never identify themselves as suffering from a mental illness to say, “Yeah, me too.” I think that in the long run, this is far more useful than, say, singing the praises of bipolar sufferers for their alleged high rates of creativity. Even when framed in this positive way, the emphasis is still on the difference between Us and Them (or Them and Us as they are more likely to see it).
    I’ve said nothing here about how similar my adolescent feelings and fantasies were to yours, but that’s something I should probably save for my own blog.
    Thanks.

  3. n1c0star said,

    April 19, 2007 at 1:12 pm

    Don’t get sucked into the media trying to compare you to this maniac. He was nothing like you.
    I suffer from a lot of same things, but I’m not about to go on a rampage and hurt anyone. It’s really disgusting me that they’re creating a stigma for all people with mental health issues. Before Columbine, A LOT of people would fantasize about horrible things… I personally remember how much more freely people would talk about it. Although I’m not in school anymore, terrible things will still cross my mind involving my current situation, that I freely discuss with my family. Guess what? They think about the same stuff– and they’re considered “normal”.
    I’d rather not be having these thought altogether, but I don’t think you’re bad for it.

  4. Bob Thompson said,

    April 19, 2007 at 1:52 pm

    More info about Cho here…
    http://www.cnn.com/2007/US/04/19/student.counseling/index.html?eref=rss_topstories

  5. Gianna said,

    April 20, 2007 at 11:33 am

    Thanks Marissa, you bring up some very important issues. I think the most important thing is that many many people may have violent fantasies. It’s not the fantasies that are dangerous. It’s the actions. I dare say fantasies, when not acted on may be healthy and simply a coping mechanism. What is different about people like Cho, is not their fantasies, but that they carry them out.
    I don’t believe we should necessarily fear our fantasies and teachers and counselors should not assume anyone with a violent fantasy is dangerous. Certainly calm, caring attention would be helpful. Letting people know that their thoughts are not prophecy is also important.
    I’ve had both suicidal and homicidal fantasies. They’ve at times been mildly troubling, but for the most part I’ve always recognized them as fantasies and luckily always had someone to talk to about them that did not jump to the conclusion that I was about to commit a heinous act.
    Our minds are made to be endlessly imaginative. I would go so far as to say that people who do not ever have less than pretty fantasies are probably repressed. We all have the capacity of great good and great evil. But we always have a choice to make. I don’t believe that thoughts are sins.

  6. Jayme said,

    April 21, 2007 at 10:14 am

    This was a couragous post, to say the least. I’m so glad you didn’t hold back. If I were 23 right now and someone found my dark and sinister writings, I would be commited on the spot. I hope this tragic incident doesn’t silence others in their creative writings. Writing things on paper can be an outlet rather than acting out the rage.

  7. April 22, 2007 at 7:03 am

    There was a big grey elephant sitting on the 500 acre Virginia Tech campus; severe mental illness . The media has wasted its time by trying to dissect what happened from 7:15AM-9:25AM on the day of the murders. But all 32 murders were 100% preventable had the Virginia Tech administration taken the appropriate action by suspending Cho months before the massacre.
    Seung-Hui Cho had been diagnosed by a trained psychiatrist as someone who was “at high risk for harming himself as well as others.” What more does one need to get suspended from school? It is indefensible.
    http://www.MyDepressionSpace.com

  8. Jon said,

    May 7, 2007 at 2:30 pm

    One way of looking at depression is aggression turned inwards. In my opinion males are more likely to outwardly express that aggression, whether that be a product of our culture or due to biological tendencies or a combination of both is a matter of opinion.
    I too, was horribly depressed in junior high and high school and felt very isolated and picked on. I wrote page after page of poetry expressing my pain and anger about myself and the world. Now, this was all before Columbine and so it was handled differently than it would be now, but I went to a large high school and my senior year I was allowed into an alternative school for “troubled youth” that had a maximum of 150 students. When I switched I thought I would be accepted because I was under the impression that these would be the outcasts just like me. I was not. My anger continued and in our small lunch room I told another student I was going to kill him and that he better watch his back. I was talked to by the principle and received a warning slip (if you got 3 then you were kicked out of school). Later that year, in the middle of english class while the teacher was talking at the blackboard, I told a female from across the room I was going kill her. The teacher was shocked and said “surely you don’t mean that.” I responded with, “Yes I do, I’ll cut her f****n throat.”
    This time I was in the principle’s office with the resource officer but only received another warning slip because, and I quote, “you just don’t look like the type.” The poor girl didn’t come to school for a week after that.
    These are the samples of actually threatening to kill people. I did other things: tried to run over a student in the parking lot, arrested for stabbing a person with a screwdriver (aggravated battery), other arrests for drunk driving, marijuana possession, destroying mailboxes, theft, vandalism. I think that’s it? No wait, and driving without priviledges. Needless to say I was well on my way to becoming a sociopath. I hated myself but directed my aggression outward. Here it is years later and I am married to a totally awesome girl and have a wonderful daughter. I am finishing up my junior year in college with plenty of academic honors. I’ve spoken at conferences, participate in neurological research at a hospital, and am waiting to see if my undergraduate research is accepted for presentation at the Congress of Neurological Surgeons.
    I have a bright future and a dark past. It all came down to having help when I needed it the most because I think even if I had made the decision to change, I wouldn’t have if there was nobody to help me along the way. I too, empathized with this man, because it very well could have been me. I hated myself and wanted people to pay for how I thought they made me feel, just like Cho. I wanted the world to know how horrible I felt, just like Cho. I wanted to die, just like Cho; and yet here I am, unlike Cho, because people were so stubbornly kind and persistent in offering me friendship and help.
    Now, of course there are differences in our situations, probably too many to list, but for all of the differences, you, me, and Cho are not so different after all.
    Spread the Love!!!


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