Tuesday, November 22, 2011

Tap Dance and massacres

It’s been a little while since I posted, and I apologize for that. The last ten days I have been swamped with end of semester projects and research papers. I just finished a 4000 word paper for my Criminology Class. We had to choose a crime that happened in the last five years and analyze it with one or two criminal theories we studied this semester. I chose to analyze the Virginia Tech Massacre through Robert Agnew’s General Strain Theory and Travis Hirschi’s Social Bond Theory. My decision was influenced by my tap dance class.

I know, that’s weird – how could something like tap dancing make me think of a brutal massacre? We were working on a routine to “Pumped Up Kicks” by Foster the People. I downloaded the song so that I could practice at home, and as I listened to the song for the twentieth or so time, I started catching dark lyrics in the catchy tune …”All the other kids with the pumped up kicks better run, better run, outrun my gun…” Upon looking the lyrics up and then verifying it on the bands website, I discovered that the song is about a kid that goes on a shooting spree at his school, going after all the rich and popular kids (as represented by their “pumped up kicks” a.k.a. expensive sneakers).

I’ve always been fascinated by crime and the psyche of the criminal. When I was younger, I wanted to be a forensic profiler for the FBI. What makes killer’s minds tick? Why do they do the things they do? I clearly remember the Columbine Shootings as well as The Virginia Tech Massacre from the time when they happened and wondering what made these kids snap. What does it take for people so young to become so angry, so full of hate, that they decide to not only end their own lives, but those of classmates and teachers?

This could turn into a HUGE rant about bullies, parents not being involved enough in their kids’ lives, the media, and number of other reasons that have come forth over time, but I’d rather not get into all of that. It’s been said over and over in the past. In the case of Seung-Hui Cho (The Virginia Tech shooter) he was disturbed since childhood, diagnosed with social anxiety disorder, depression and selective mutism – a rare form of social anxiety where the individual is afraid to speak – afraid of hearing the sound of their own voice. Cho’s mutism was so bad he would not even speak to his parents or his teachers. Even in 8th grade Cho identified with the Columbine shooters. Despite years of counseling and medication, Cho snapped.

I’m sure it would be a frightening place to be, but I really want to get into the minds of these killers, and figure out what’s going on. I haven’t had anything above general psych and none of the theories I’ve studied in criminology really come close to explaining the motivations of these trouble young people. Agnew says that adolescents are under strain because they are not treated the way they want to be treated, and that these negative relationships cause anger. From the various articles I’ve read, including the official report by the Virginia Tech Massacre Review Panel, it appears that his family, counselors, teachers, and college roommates all tried to be social, to make friends, etc but Cho rejected their advances. Hirschi says that deviance occurs when there are no strong social bonds to family and institutions (ie. Schools). Again the people in Cho’s life made attempts to bond, but were rejected or treated with hostility and weirdness.

Hours of research and 4000 words later and I am still no closer to understanding the senseless violence that occurred on April 16, 2007.

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