Posted by: amamasblog | April 17, 2007

Virginia Tech Massacre

Yesterday’s mass murder of 32 innocent people, at Virginia Tech, has left me feeling very sad, confused, and horrified.  Unfortunately, these shooting sprees are becoming too common and this seems like salt on an open wound, in light of the eighth anniversary of the Columbine shootings, this week.

I saw in the paper today, that even the previous shooting that claimed the most lives (prior to Monday at VT), was in a Luby’s Cafeteria in Texas, in 1991, where 24 people died.  I barely remember that- and it seemed like such a random, out of the ordinary event.  Somewhere in those 16 years, deadly shootings have sadly moved from the extra-ordinary to the ordinary.  I don’t think I am being overly pessimistic thinking it is not a matter of if the next one will occur, it is when, and how many more innocent people will die?

Something dawned on me today, and I realized that it seems like all the mass murder shootings (at least as many as I can recall) have all been male.  From the Luby’s Cafeteria shooting, to Jonesboro, AK to Columbine, to the Native American school shooting in WI, to the Bailey, CO shooting, to the Amish school shooting in PA.  Sadly, there are many more, and the underlying factor in these horrific events is the shooter and shooters have all been male.

As a mother of two young sons, that terrifies me.  As I laid my sweet, innocent, 11 month-old-baby boy, down to sleep tonight, I couldn’t help but think of all these boys, young men, and men, who go from being  sweet innocent babies, to  mass murderers.  How does one go from being one to the other, and when does it happen?  Did their parents notice a change?  Was it one event, like being constantly bullied, or a series of events, that finally make them “snap”?  Did they not have any one or any place to turn?  Why did they feel like killing innocent people were their only options?

Obviously, these are questions that cannot be answered definitively.  It does seem that most of these killers felt bullied, isolated, depressed, and had personal problems. I am in no way excusing or justifying their actions, but it does seem like a partial failure of our society, that these individuals felt like there was no other option. 

This led me to another thought- surely girls in our society have these feelings and problems as well- what is different in that so far (knock on wood) girls haven’t resorted to mass murder as an answer for these problems? 

Do we treat girls different than boys?  Is it more acceptable in our society for girls to cry, act out, talk about their feelings, show emotions, while we expect our boys (consciously and unconsciously), to “tough it out,” “be a man,” don’t share their feelings, “keep it to yourself.”  If we have a girl come to us crying, because she is being bullied or picked on in school, do we lend a more sympathetic ear, and try to intervene more, then when and if a boy tells us he is being bullied, do we chalk it up to “boys will be boys,” and tell him to work it out?  Do boys even get to this point, where they talk about problems they are having, or do they fear sharing these problems with their family? Have we conditioned boys from early on, to suppress their “feminine” emotions and feelings?

I am no psychologist, or sociologist, but there is a reason why we haven’t been seeing females resorting to mass murders.  I suspect it is a variety of reasons- maybe boys see and play more violent video games and movies than girls in general.  I really believe there is something to be said for becoming desensitised to violence.  Maybe in our society, where it is not encouraged for boys to talk about their feelings, they are getting the message, that it is acceptable to hurt others if you are not happy, and in extreme cases, acting out the violence they see.

As a parent, I just wish there were more answers than questions.  There are never any guarantees that your children will never be hurt, or end up with problems, despite your best efforts.  I just hope that Joe and I can foster in our sons, an environment where they do feel safe, and secure expressing their feelings, and know that we will never think less of them if they need to cry, yell, or express what is inside of them.  Everyone needs to do that.  It makes me think of a  quote by Gloria Steinem, which says,

     “We’ve begun to raise our daughters more like our sons…but few have the courage to raise our sons more like our daughters.”

For some reason, this has a bit of hope for me, in that maybe just maybe, if our sons feel it is safe to express their feelings, they will always have a safe place, and non-judgemental place to fall- perhaps just this small thing can make a difference.

My family sends our condolences to all the victims’ families and friends, affected by this awful tragedy, especially parents who have lost their child- My heart goes out to all of you.

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Responses

  1. Short answer: Testosterone. The same hormone that leads us men to take the kind of risks most women think are crazy, also leads to weird fits of rage. It’s not the whole answer or the only answer- there is also unimaginable evil in this world.

    “what is different in that so far (knock on wood) girls haven’t resorted to mass murder as an answer for these problems”

    Not necessarily true. If you only include mass shootings, then sort of. The following are school shootings perpetrated by females

    Brenda Ann Spencer, Cleveland, Ohio, Jan. 1979, 2 dead 7 wounded

    “When the six-hour incident ended, she was asked of her motive for the killing, to which she shrugged and replied “I don’t like Mondays. This livens up the day.”

    Laurie Dunn, Illinois, US, May 1988, 1 dead 6 wounded.

    “30-year-old Laurie Dann walked into a second grade classroom at Hubbard Woods Elementary School carrying three pistols and began shooting children, killing eight-year-old Nicholas Corwin and wounding five others before fleeing. She entered a nearby house where she shot and wounded a 20-year-old man before killing herself.”

    Dr. Valery Fabrikant, Montreal Canada, August 1992, 4 dead

    “Former professor Dr. Valery Fabrikant went on a shooting rampage at Montreal’s Concordia University killing four.”

    Jillian Robbins, Penn. U.S.,

    “In the Hetzel Union Building shooting at The Pennsylvania State University, 19 year old Jillian Robbins opened fire on students walking to classes, killing one student and wounding another.”

    More such crimes (and the above) can be found here
    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/List_of_school_massacres

    Also, do not forget that historically, when it comes to multiple murders, women are much more likely to employ other means- like poison.

  2. i, too, am horrified and saddened by the VT massacre and all of the copycat incidents today. it’s very troubling when you have children that you want to be able to protect and keep safe always to know that these kind of things happen in the world, in schools no less, where they should be safe – and with more frequency lately.

    but wow – that is a great quote and you are right in that it does seem hopeful. thank you for sharing it. hopefully by practicing AP and keeping the lines of communication open with our children, we can bring about change for the better.

  3. totaltransformation: Thanks for the comment, and for your thoughts. I don’t doubt that testosterone can play a part in this, but I still feel like there is something more that pushes that person over the edge. Not all men / boys that get teased or bullied resort to killing sprees. I just can’t help but think there is something more at work here.

    I also want to clarify that I didn’t mean that females *never* resort to murder, but as I stated: “it seems like all the mass murder shootings (at least as many as I can recall) have all been male.”

    I meant that it seems like most of the shootings, and at least the ones I remember, have all been male, and even as you pointed out, women have resorted to mass murder, but not to the extent that the male’s in our society have.

    I looked up the massacres on the Wikipedia link that you sent, and was shocked to see so many school shootings, not only in the US, but worldwide. I stared to tally the results, but realized it would take a far longer amount of time than I had. I did tally 20 random shootings, and these are the statistics that I tallied based on the Wikipedia information:

    Out of 20 shootings, 18 were commited by men, and 2 were commited by women.
    The female shootings resulted in 3 deaths and 14 wounded, compared with 202 killed and 134 wounded in male shootings. Based on these numbers, I think it is fair to conclude that the majority of these shooting sprees are performed by males, resulting in a higher number of deaths and wounded.

    Bottom line for me, is I hope we as parents, and as a society, can take a closer look on what kind of messages and atmospheres, we are creating for our sons.

    Thanks again for your comment.

  4. Question Marks
    By X: THC

    “This didn’t have to happen”, Cho Seung-Hui said, after murdering thirty-two people at Virginia Tech University.

    And this terrible tragedy of sons, daughters, mothers and fathers didn’t have to happen, if we’d only listened.

    But we never listen.

    We never listen to those that are different from us- the outcasts, the lonely, the homeless, the ones that are unspoken for. We don’t try to understand. We shun them and put them out of our minds because of our fear that we will become like them.

    And these people become more and more lonely and alienated in their isolation.

    Words like “creep”, “deranged misfit” and “psycho” devalue this killer’s humanity so we don’t have to face how similar he is to us. Cries of “how could he have been stopped” are uttered by media quick to sensationalize and gain market share, when the words “how could he have been listened to” are never considered.

    Because we don’t want to listen.

    We don’t want to hear about loneliness and alienation when we’re all so busy with our lives, making money and making friends. And the unpopular, the ones that don’t fit in, the lonely ones are ignored or made fun of because we don’t care to understand anything about them.

    This man who clearly needed help, Cho Seung-Hui, devalued himself so much that he called himself “Question Mark”.

    There are more “Question Marks” out there. There are millions of them. And if we don’t listen to them, they will follow the same path again and again, because people are not connecting. We are becoming more and more disconnected from each other, creating more and more “Question Marks” every day.

    Most “Question Marks” don’t become murderers. Some just kill themselves. Most harm no one and live just as we do, needing antidepressants to appear what we call “normal”. They may be someone you know, someone you love.

    This “Question Mark” was once a little boy, who cried, and smiled and loved, He wanted to fit in just like you and I. But that desire to fit in transformed itself into anger towards a society that shunned and ignored him.

    How many more times will we shun and ignore the one that doesn’t fit in, the one in the corner, the one that’s different? When all we have to do is listen, before it’s too late.

    But we won’t.

    Thirty-two human beings who did not know Cho Seung-Hui were murdered.
    They were sons, daughters, fathers and mothers, with dreams of futures that will never come and children that will never be born. The thirty-two leave behind people that love them. People that are now scarred for life by this horrible day of death.

    To most of us that have not been directly involved, this tragedy will become a memory and fade like all the others that came before.

    And the “Question Marks” will appear with more frequency, again and again, because we don’t listen.

    We never do.

    —————

    http://www.x-thc.com

  5. “We shun them and put them out of our minds because of our fear that we will become like them.”

    You do realize that psychopathic behavior has already been formed by the age of eight and may have nothing to do with how a person is treated- it can also be related to their brains wiring going (or already being) abnormal. In many cases children don’t become this way because they are teased, they are teased because they have already separated themselves due to a severe mental problem that predates any bullying, teasing, etc.

    From all indications it appears that Cho had a form of psychopathic behavior that was due, not to society, but to his own defective wiring. Numerous students recounted offering to dine with him, speak with him, and befriend him to no avail. His own family has come out and discussed his abnormal behavior.

    The Cho’s of the world can’t be cured- they can only be locked up so they won’t hurt innocents. However, there are many who can be helped. There are some who snap under severe bullying- but most often they just kill those who bully them (not innocent bystanders).

    As humans we want to think we have control over all situations; that we can fix these kind of problems. After all, if we can’t control or fix this, it makes us scared that we are doomed to repeat it. But sadly, that is the lot of our life in this deeply damaged world. Sometimes people snap for no reason; sometimes people are simply evil; there are a plethora of reasons. I just hope we can focus on those situation where we can help, instead of spinning our wheels on hopeless cases.

    BTW excellent blog 🙂

  6. The comments on this subject are interesting, and I appreciate different views and ideas. If nothing else, they have gotten me to consider that maybe it isn’t just *one* thing that makes a person snap- maybe there are so many factors, and also maybe some people are just “wired” that way, and when the conditions are met, they act on their impulses.

    I also think X:THC had some good points as well- I think the people who are different tend to get cast aside, and made to feel like there is something wrong with them, if they don’t fit the mold. It seems like this starts a very young age, and perhaps by the time someone eventually does reach out to them (if that even happens), it is too late.

    I have to still hope and believe as parents, we have the greatest influence for many years over our children, and I think it has to start at home. I think it is my job as a parent, to develop that relationship w/ my children so they can feel comfortable telling me what is going on. Obviously, they aren’t in school yet, but I hope when they get to that age, the foundation we are laying now, will help us in trying to draw them out, and creating an environment where they will be able to express to us what is happening in their lives. Check back in 4 years, and I’ll let you know how it is going. 🙂

    Hopefully, we can all learn from the different ideas and thoughts we all have on this situation, and we can gain some additional insight on how we might be able to make a difference today, and tomorrow.

  7. Oh, Totaltransformation- thanks for the compliment on my blog. I hope you will check in from time to time. 🙂

  8. “Oh, Totaltransformation- thanks for the compliment on my blog. I hope you will check in from time to time. :-)”

    Madame, t’would be a pleasure. I hope you will return the favor.


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