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Ethelred Unraed's Journal: [VT] Tentacles of violence 16

Journal by Ethelred Unraed
(Reposted from Multiply.)

Mostly I've been able to block out thinking too much about Blacksburg and Cho the past few days just by plunging into work, dealing with the kids, joking around as usual and so on, while still at least symbolically wearing my Hokies stuff (I have a number of T-shirts, a sweatshirt, and a couple ballcaps).

However, it's hard to relate how much Blacksburg means to me personally. It was my childhood home, and I had about as ideal a childhood as it gets. It was (and I suppose still is) the place I always wanted to return to someday. It was, for me, as close to heaven on earth as I could imagine, as crazy as that may sound to some people. Thus it is all the more maddening when unwanted associations creep in when I think about it.

Just now, I was reading a bedtime story to the kids. Where the Wild Things Are by Maurice Sendak, an old favorite. Which I read over and over again as a kid...in Newman Library on the Tech campus while my parents hit the books for their graduate studies. But rather than think of happy memories, I think of a maniac brandishing guns and rambling into a camera.

And that's just what he wanted. So in a sense he (or the demons within him) "wins". And that pisses me off.

As an aside, it also shows how around the bend he was rambling about Mercedeses and whatnot in Blacksburg. Most people would think of Blacksburg as being borderline hick town. (The surrounding area would be real hick town for most outsiders.) To call people there snobbish or wealthy is nothing short of amazing. Tech is very much a middle-class school.

The other thing, though, that actually hurts on top of it all is the media coverage, which has been astonishing for its insensitivity and aggressiveness towards the people in Blacksburg. Every interview I have seen, whether it is with professors, students or staff, has been of an accusing tone, as if they are to blame. Cho's roommate was practically called negligent for not telling the school administration Cho didn't talk to people. Some anchors have openly called for people to file lawsuits. One professor, a poet and English professor who had been one of Cho's teachers, was cut off in an interview for not going along with all the second-guessing. The utter lack of human decency in the name of ratings combined with inane commentary on the level of verbal diarrhea has been shocking.

The thing that does at least restore some balance to it, however, has been the support from "rival" universities, not all of it symbolic, either. Florida State and the University of Miami are contributing money to Tech memorial scholarships as just one example of many I've heard of. Naturally that doesn't get reported in the mainstream media, who are apparently only interested in second-guessing the entire Tech administration and community, not even giving them the chance to grieve while sticking microphones in any face they can find. (My parents wrote some scathing letters to MSNBC and CNN tearing into them over the coverage.)

Other small gestures have helped, too. The spontaneous decision of the Washington Nationals to wear Tech ballcaps during the Braves game was a nice touch earlier in the week. Students at various schools around the country have started wearing maroon and orange. And as much as I dislike his politics, I appreciate President Bush coming down for a visit.

Tech itself has also done some gestures that are nice. The students who died will all get their degrees posthumously at Commencement. There will be scholarship funds started for both of the murdered professors. Students will also get generous terms for completing their studies this semester.

For what it's worth, tomorrow has unofficially been declared Hokie Nation Day -- wear maroon and orange if you want to show you care and show sympathy for the victims and their families.

Even so, it still hurts when an innocent moment of reading a book to my kids instantly leads me to think of the deaths of over thirty people and the ravings of a madman...and, for all the overwrought sense of it, of "paradise lost".
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[VT] Tentacles of violence

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  • cnn (Score:3, Insightful)

    by stoolpigeon (454276) * <bittercode@gmail> on Thursday April 19, 2007 @03:41PM (#18802981) Homepage Journal
    i watched the cnn coverage the night it happened. i'm not an emotional guy - and i've never been there. i was upset about it but it didn't hit me nearly as hard as people who have a real connection to the place. and yet i was aghast at the coverage from cnn. it was absolutely amazing. they had some kid on there, who had just lost friends, and were trying to manipulate him into blaming the school administration. i'd like to think if he hadn't been in shock (and it was pretty obvious that he was overloaded) that he would have told her off. it was shameful.
  • You know... (Score:3, Insightful)

    by Otter (3800) on Thursday April 19, 2007 @03:50PM (#18803141) Journal
    As with the little girl who was killed when her school's flagpole fell on her -- there's 300 million people in this country, and some number of crazy things are going to happen. A reminder to follow through with my plans to go fishing after work today and make the most of one more day that I have.
  • by dave-tx (684169) * <df19808+slashdot.gmail@com> on Thursday April 19, 2007 @04:24PM (#18803595)

    Thanks for posting here. I also am furious at the media coverage, particularly the constant replaying of the video sent by that twisted psychopath. You're right, he "wins" because he gets the attention that he sought. Angering me even more is that now, when I think of Blacksburg or Virginia Tech, instead of good memories and thoughts, I'm confronted with this ugliness. For me, it will pass. For those who lost friends and family, that association will never pass.

    The blame game is sensationalistic nonsense that I expect from the media. That's been their operating mode for a while now, trying to polarize the viewership and get them angry at someone or some issue. It's meaningless, spiteful, and of no value.

    I was also amazed at Cho's lack of insight of the economic structure of the student population. Virginia Tech is a typical state college in that respect. Perhaps even more so due to it's rural setting. It seems to me that he was simply angry and needed something to be angry about, so he just made it up. Or, perhaps, he really was directing this at a small number of people who he feels wronged him in some way. I don't even know why I'm wasting my thoughts on him, he's not worth it.

    Speaking of symbolic gestures, the University of Texas is holding a gathering Monday night which our local chapter of the alumni association plans to attend in full force as a show of thanks for their support. It means a lot to us coming from UT, who experienced the Charles Whitman incident 40 years ago. Austin as a whole has been very sympathetic and understanding, and I'm grateful to be able to call such a great community "home" at this point in my life. It's not Blacksburg, but it doesn't need to be.

    • by johndiii (229824) *
      I agree completely. The media coverage has been nothing short of disgusting. Even without the completely pointless airing of Cho's venomous ramblings. Those should not have been aired at all - out of respect for the Virginia Tech community and out of simple human decency. Not to mention not giving ideas to the next head case.

      We need to all stop gawking. It's unkind and unseemly.

      My older daughter lives in Austin as well; it is a great community.
      • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

        Not to mention not giving ideas to the next head case.

        I usually watch SportsCenter or CNN in the morning while eating breakfast, and I was totally shocked to see them playing that video. As Eth said, why give those demons, posthumously or not, their satisfaction. There are right now people thinking about a similar rampage. Most will decide to not go through with it, but if they were to all know that whatever video screed they left behind would be forever unaired, wouldn't that perhaps help tip the bala

      • Ya. I don't know how some of these people in the media can sleep at night with the way they badger utterly innocent bystanders with their grandstanding. Apparently they have no conscience left in their greed for exposure and celebrity. Supposedly they do it in the name of the public good, holding people's feet to the fire, etc., but they have long since lost perspective in when it's appropriate and when it isn't, and clearly "holding people accountable" like that isn't working as each atrocity progressively

  • And for that, I've tried to stay away from the media coverage about the whole thing. The only thing I wanted to know was the following:

    What set him off?

    He was disturbed, he needed help, but something had to have set him off. Whether the final straw was months ago or a few weeks ago, I wanted to know if the authorities could have identified it. I would think this information would have been worth more to the nation than the entirety of what was in Cho's tape.

    As it is, I too harbored hopes to return to B

    • What set him off? I don't think we'll ever know. I wouldn't be at all surprised if he had a sort of brain disease that caused severe malfunctions in perceptions and awareness -- in other words beyond psychological help and well into serious psychiatric and neurological disorders. Who knows what was going on in his disordered mind.

      IIRC the guy that went on the rampage in UT in the 60s turned out to have a brain tumor that probably caused his disorder. I'll bet Cho had something along those lines.

      I also a

      • by dave-tx (684169) *

        So it's settled. A gyros at Souvlaki's, then a round of darts at Ton 80's over a beer? ;-)

        You guys pick the date and I'll be there too. Always looking for a reason to visit Blacksburg. I might have mentioned it in another thread, but Souvlaki's owner was also my landlord in the semi-slum (j/k) where I lived in grad school, but I remembered his name as Chris - was he Nick's son, or am I just showing my typical problems remembering names?

        • Yup, Chris was Nick's son. I think Chris has passed on in the meantime too, though, but I could be wrong there. If he hasn't, he must be in his nineties now -- but then again his old man made it to a bazillion. (Seriously, IIRC Nick made it to 100.)

          Cheers,

          Ethelred

          • by dave-tx (684169) *

            Holy cow, I hadn't realized Chris was that old (or even deceased). Either that or I hadn't realized that I was that old. Time does seem to fly.

            • Well, when I was at Tech in 1989-90, Nick was already in his mid to late 90s and I believe Chris would have been at least in his late 60s, maybe even already well into his 70s. Do the math. ;-)

              (OK, I'm slightly off -- Chris would be in his late 80s, maybe 90s tops.)

              But yes, time does seem to fly...what makes me sad is how a lot of my old favorite stores around there are gone. Books Strings & Things and Gillie's are both gone, for example, and they both rocked. I think Mish-Mish is still there, thoug

              • by dave-tx (684169) *

                Now that you mention it, Chris was a bit wrinkly when I knew him. I'm just having a hard time acknowledging that that was almost 20 years ago. Ick.

                Yep, Gille's is vegetarian....I haven't bothered to go inside the past few years. IIRC, even The Record Exchange is history. There was some new record store sort-of-across-the-street a few years ago, but I don't remember seeing it last year.

                More than anything, I'm still sore that Carol Lee's downtown location closed (as of last fall, they still had the sh

                • Carol Lee's closed?!

                  Oh sure, drive a stake through my heart. :-(

                  ;-)

                  Cheers,

                  Ethelred

                  • by dave-tx (684169) *

                    Yes, several years ago. There have been a couple different food shops in the location since then. Seems like it's something different every time I go by there.

                    I make the drive to the "remote" Carol Lee every time I'm in town, though - as I'm sure you'd agree, it's worth it!

      • I loved Souvlaki's. Good food for a starving college student and you couldn't beat the price.

        Man, I remember the corner drug store, and Record Exchange. Both are now gone. Ironically, replaced by the same business, a record store that moved into the place where the corner store used to be: Crossroads.

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