It’s started in the tabloid newspapers the day after the shootings. The New York Daily News is describing the Virginia Tech gunman, Cho Seung-hui, as a PSYCHO. The words madman, sicko, and crazed headcase blazon the headlines rag newspapers, and those words are running rampant on the Internet. No one is arguing that the gunman, Cho Seung-hui, was ill, very ill. He desperately needed psychiatric help. His teachers knew it and so did some of his classmates. People who knew the boy feared him, and some tried to get him help. My concern is that these tragic events will feed into the belief that everyone with a mental illness is a danger to society. This belief is the farthest thing from the truth, but unfortunately, many people suffering from mental illnesses are going to suffer as a consequence of yesterday’s tragic events.
I’ve received email from some of my readers asking me how something like this can happen. One of the instructors of the gunman went to the police with her concerns, but nothing was done. We walk a very fine line when we talk about mental illness and an individual’s civil liberties. In my last post, The Jesus Three, I talked about three harmless men who were locked up for life because they thought that they were Jesus. They were not a threat to themselves or society. These harmless men were denied their civil liberties, and because of what has happened in the past, the pendulum has swung the other way, and now some dangerous people are allowed to walk the streets. Today people cannot be locked up unless they communicate that they are in imminent danger of harming themselves or others. Nowhere in Cho’s writings did he mention any specific plans about committing a crime against others. The question is where do we draw the line when deciding how to protect the rights of people who just think that they are God while locking up those who have a God like desire to decide who shall live and who shall die.
My thoughts and prayers go out to the families and friends of those affected by yesterday’s tragedy.