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half enough

A letter to Virginia

Who and what’s to blame? That is not the question.

The Virginia Tech tragedy was indeed a tragedy. No amount of condolences will alleviate the grief of the 33 lives lost on April 17, 2007.

I can’t help but feel frustrated. Frustrated with the responses of intelligent American voices on radio and television airwaves discussing what could have been if Sueng-hui Cho was committed to a mental institution months or years prior; if Virginia Tech campus security and Blacksburg Police had taken “better” precautionary measures in the two hours before the second shooting. I’m frustrated that these voices pervade national airwaves and make it seem as though they represent the majority of what Americans think and feel. Why is there such an urgency to analyze the past?

The easier way out of life’s difficulties is to desensitize oneself from the situation, pass the time, and wait until one eventually forgets. This was how I responded to the Columbine High School tragedy in 1999.

I was in the 10th grade when the shootings at Columbine High School occurred on April 20, 1999. In response to the tragedy, my teachers facilitated discussions about the shootings that week in our classes. They discussed how it was bad to exclude peers and make people feel unimportant. The talkative students shared how they remembered treating former classmates poorly while others—those who were probably the victims of exclusion—stayed quiet. The facilitated discussions seemed to be a way to relieve the former offenders from their guilt. Some of my classmates revealed their guilt in their facial expressions. While the shock of the tragedy made me sad and angry, I didn’t share my feelings with the class because I didn’t think what I felt would matter to anyone. I was one of those people who always felt excluded in high school. In time and by the end of the semester, people forgot and moved on. I did too.

Waiting it out and moving on, however, clearly has not resolved the issue.

The feeling of unworthiness—of being unheard and feeling unimportant—is no different from what the Columbine killers and Seung-hui Cho probably felt. What one resorts to, however, for attention on the matter of society’s ignorance to society, depends on the individual. Unfortunately, it cannot be predicted, prevented or controlled. For the guilty parties at Columbine and Virginia Tech, we’ll never know what drove them to the final act of their lives and those they took.

I’m still in the process of figuring out what questions to ask. So far, I have optimism on my side and the future to look forward to.

© 2007 Victoria Kraus

Sobre esta serie

"Half Enough" is Victoria's first regular column series. Opinions expressed in this column are not necessarily those of Discover Nikkei.