Thursday, May 03, 2007

Of Maniacs and Campuses...
Several weeks late and a few dollars short, time to chime in on the Virginia tech shooter.

I guess I should, I mean, everyone else has. And most of them, I think missed the mark, so why shouldn't I take a whack at it?

To begin with, Cho Sung-hui (or whatever his name is, I can't be bothered to actually look it up) was a deranged man. That should be obvious to even Ted Kennedy. Sane people do not murder 32 people, make rambling video statements, and mail them off to NBC News, apparently all on the same day.

The obvious questions have been asked; How did this hapen? Where were the police and campus security? What made this guy flip? What made him tick?And then the stupid questions were asked; Isn't this a wonderful example of why we should have gun control in this country? How many more Cho's are out there? I can answer those last two questions: no, and, who the hell knows?

There was one interesting development in this case that I noted just as soon as I'd heard it; at some point in his life, Cho was deemed insane by a judge (and we all KNOW what fine arbiters of sanity American judges are), and let loose on his own recognisence, i.e. on the premise that he get himself some help.

Now here is where I can sympathize with Cho. I certainly don't agree with what he did (I don't see how any reasonable person can), but given that shred of information and viewing his rambling video monlogue in this light, I can make a leap (and I admit, I have no idea if it's correct) and see where a guy just might get pissed off enough to shoot 32 people; someone labeled him a lunatic (whether or not he was prior to his enocunter with the legal system is immaterial to this argument) and then made no effort to get him any help.

Worse, and I can attest to this, since I've suffered from the same stigma; once you have that (you've been branded a lunatic or have a history of mental illness, no matter how slight) in your jacket, God help you. It follows you around. Want that choice job? You won't get it after your prospective employer does a rudimentary background check on you. Want insurance? You won't get it when the insurance company finds out a judge said you're off your chump.

Now, What if...

What if Cho was indeed mentally ill, but that it was an illness of such a nature that it was treatable with therapy and medication, and would not impair him or cause him to be a danger to himself or others? Is that fair to him to have that stigma attached, and worse, electronically transmitted everywhere in the world for anyone willing to make an effort to find it? (Do a Google search on yourself and see what comes back. You'd be amazed!).

What if Cho seriously was ill and the judge abrogated his responsibility (not wanting to seem harsh to a sick man) to society, and instead of doing the proper thing (commiting this guy against his will), let him go, without supervision, without treatment, and probably stewing in his own juices long enough to go postal on his college campus?

The one question that has NOT been asked in the aftermath of the entire episode is this: was this man sick enough to go beserk BEFORE he ran afoul of the law and the judge, or was his intial condition perhaps treatable and curable, but the resulting stigma of a ruling of serious mental illness propelled him further into psychosis? For all we know, Cho might have had something as simple as an anxiety disorder or maybe was bi-polar, conditions that are easily treated, and that relatively slight disorder became something else because he felt persecuted for it afterwards.

The news media was much too quick to drop this story, and for obvious reasons. The storyline had run it's course; man shoots 32 folks, man is identified as a lunatic, man leaves rambling video for Brian Williams to exploit. There's nothing left to talk about after that. Just one more crazy bastard roaming our streets, but fortunately, they only pop up every few years in this fashion and then we can go back to ignoring them again.

A million "experts" will now rummage through Cho's diaries, writings, computer, etc. in an attempt to "understand" the "mind of a mass-murderer". They will learn very little, I'm betting, and in another year or so we'll have another Cho.

The only lesson to be learned form this is that how we treat people who are mentally ill, (especially those who exhibit symptoms that are, of their nature, usually temporary, and completely curable) just might have repercussions. Deadly repercussions. I'm not for imprisoning people against their will (unless there's simply no other way), but I'm also convinced (from personal experience) that the current methods leave much to be desired when it comes to getting people back into society either during, and particularly after, treatment.

Let Brian Williams do some "investigative journalism" on that! What he finds will shock you, not so much because there is a host of disturbed folks out there, but by how shabbily they are treated by the medical establishment, the insurance companies, the police and social services, and especially by employers. And pay special attention to what happens to them once their 'condition' becomes common knowledge, courtesy of the Information Age. It makes Nuremberg Laws regarding the wearing of the Star of David seem tame by comparison. (Ed. Note: Yes, it is as bad as the Holocaust and the harrassment of Jews under the Nazis. Please, don't bother to complain).

Sometimes, that's even after the medical establishment, such as it is, considers them cured.

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