Monday, October 01, 2007

An Unpublished Editorial

Shortly after the shootings at Virginia Tech, I wrote an editorial. It was perhaps the most personally significant piece I've ever written and I worked long and hard to make my point in 400 words or less.

But I never submitted it for publication.

I got to the door of the newspaper office with editorial in hand and suddenly stopped. For some inexplicable reason, I turned around, got in my truck and drove away. Perhaps I just felt it would be wrong to editorialize such a tragedy. Perhaps I was afraid of taking flak for it. For whatever reason, it remains unpublished. I post it here for the interest of whomever browses by.


In 1960, psychologist and president of the American Psychological Association, Dr. Hobart Mowrer, published an article in American Psychologist entitled, "Sin, the Lesser of Two Evils". He wrote,

"[We] psychologists have looked upon ... sin and moral accountability as a great incubus, and have acclaimed our liberation from it as epic-making. But at length we have discovered that to be free [is] to have the excuse of being sick rather than being sinful ... In becoming amoral, ethically neutral, and free, we have cut the very roots of our being ... and with neurotics themselves, we find ourselves asking, "Who am I?", "What is my deepest destiny?" and, "What does living really mean?"

Strangely, the many articles regarding the Virginia Tech shootings protray the killer, Cho Seung-Hui, as a man who was "an imminent danger to himself as a result of mental illness." Yet rarely, if ever, is Cho described as "evil". To the point, one AP article made mention of "the horror of [Cho's] ... unspeakable acts", but was most concerned with Cho's mental health, as if he couldn't help but do what he did. I'm not saying Cho was not mentally ill. But, as one psychologist put it, he "is not a person who fell through the cracks. He's a person who crawled into the cracks."

I cannot presume to know the mind of Cho Seung-Hui, but this I do know: Good men do not commit evil deeds. We cannot consider Cho's deeds evil without considering Cho evil for committing them - whether he could have helped it or not. I do not say this to garner hatred for Cho, but to recognize the legitimacy of the lost lives and the grief bore by their family and friends. To fail to recognize the evil that lived within Cho is to devalue the lives that were taken that day.

In Dr. Mowrer's own words, to deny the evil bent of human nature is to "cut the very roots of our being." For, we find life's meaning not in its pleasure, but in its pain; and no greater pain can be inflicted upon the soul than the pain suffered from the loss of a relationship. If we cannot see the evil in that, where, then, shall we see it?

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