April 17, 2007

The Killer

It seems that earlier Internet rumors about the Virginia Tech shooter were about half right. The guy who killed 32 other people and then himself had a history of stalking women, according to CNN. Also, he had a recent traffic ticket, and left a polemic note decrying "rich kids," "debauchery," and "deceitful charlatans."

This makes the comparisons to the national hand-wringing over the shootings at Columbine High School apt, in my mind. The initial targets of the Columbine killers were the popular kids who likely either bullied or socially denigrated the outcast kids who eventually snapped and went on their killing spree. It's not difficult for me to imagine a similar sort of social dynamic happening at an insular society like Virginia Tech.

I remember as a teenager thinking that I was fortunate and came from a pretty well-off background. It wasn't until I got to college that I realized just how much better-off a lot of people were than my family. (It wasn't until even later that I realized just how many families were less well-off than mine, and got a decent idea of what that really meant. But I digress.) It was stunning to me to see so many kids from very comfortable families, driving new, expensive cars and playing all the time. A significant percentage of them were snobby about people with less disposable income than they. The proportion of young, affluent hedonistic types rose in law school, leading to the observations of many that law school resembled high school more than it did college.

So it's perhaps not difficult to take a glimpse of the kind of social pressures that squeezed on this guy's mind until he cracked. That doesn't justify it, of course -- like lot of people, I've felt scorned and ignored by the rich pretty girls, and put down by hardbodied rich boys with thirty-dollar crew-neck T-shirts. And I've never killed anyone and the idea of doing such a thing never even crossed my mind.

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