I am Korean;
I am a Writer


So. Virginia Tech.

I don't know anyone who attends the school and I've followed the coverage just enough to know the basic facts and to have read Cho's two plays and I just want to comment on two things: one about something I haven't heard and one about something I have.

1 Unlike Sikhs getting shot post9/11, I haven't heard nor do I anticipate--nor can I hardly imagine--a backlash against Koreans because of this barbarism. But, for the first time I can remember, the attacker in one of these events has not been a white kid. I'd never thought about that fact until I learned this one was different, but know I wonder if America's sizable Korean community might be painted with a Cho-colored brush.

This possibility would, of course, bother me with any minority community, but especially when it comes to Koreans. There have been times in my life--stretches lasting full weeks--wherein I totally forgot I was not Korean. My language skill may be shabby these days, but I still think of myself as adopted by the Peninsula.

Don't hate Koreans. We're people just like you.

(Not that readers of Thmusings would be so ignorant.....)

2 The thing that bothers me with reason is how so many in the media are suggesting that Cho should have been locked up long ago because he wrote violent tales.



Here I am.

Lock me up too.

I've read those plays, as I mentioned, and (including the fact that he's a crappy writer) there wasn't much to distinguish them from the sorts of things my high school students (male) would turn in for creative writing assignments.

And although I get the impression that the two plays posted were much milder than others he wrote for class, they were also milder than some things I've written.

It's important to keep in mind that it wasn't just the stuff Cho wrote, it was his demeanor--his aura--that made people leery of him.

And it wasn't just in his creative writing classes that he was looked at warily.

Now it seems like the backlash against the simpleminded scary-writing-must-mean-psycho conclusion has already begun--and thank goodness--but the fact that the media leapt on this so quickly suggests to me that (at least when we don't have any better facts to report) people are willing to treat the writing of fiction as a disease.

Question: How far from this mindset to bookbanning, government-sponsored censorship, Fahrenheit 451?

I'm not paranoid.

I'm just asking.

How far?


  1. You know what bugs me about all of this? Is acts like this giving ideas to other people. I was listening to the radio this morning as the hosts were talking about gun laws, and how to get a gun. A caller called in and pointed out one area where gun laws are lax and guns are easily accessible without a waiting period or background check.

    And I just thought, "Great. And now everyone listening to the radio knows about that loop hole, too. And anyone who's crazy can take advantage of it. Just perfect."

    That's what I have to add.

  2. Amen to what Cicada said.

    It's sad that this seems basically unavoidable. There was really no legal reason to lock the kid away. (Because yeah, really--do we lock up everyone who writes dark or violent fiction? What about the guy who wrote the screenplays for Saw?) Kicking him out would probably only have made him feel like he had more reason to do what he did.

    It's like I heard a newsanchor say yesterday: There is no way to legislate against lunacy.

  3. This entire discussion has been at a near-fury around here: the literary angle has not, as yet, been discussed (by us).

    You make good points, my friend; but I think that it can't really be ignored that those who have committed these horrific crimes have usually presaged their activities with some sort of creative outlet.

    The "backlash" you fear is probably well-feared, but I think the opposite problem can also come into play: namely, that we can be so paralyzed by permissiveness that nothing is done until too late.

    Not a popular position. But one I think about.

  4. I wondered about that stuff too. I was thinking yesterday about this guy who was in a couple of my creative writing classes who wrote scary-freaky-weird-violent stuff all the time. And as far as I know, he hasn't killed anyone or anything. So I'm not sure that disturbing writing and violent crime always go hand in hand.

    I'm not emotionally in a place where I can even get started about gun laws or putting people away.

  5. Some interesting discussion of these two topics from Newsweek:

    The Korean angle

    The Imaginative angle

    FWIW, I don't think there's going to be a backlash of any sort against Koreans - I think we know too many good Koreans to give in to ugly and baseless stereotyping.

    However, the censorship issue is more disturbing and real. We seem to be finding more and more excuses to create thought police.

  6. .

    Ah. I keep waiting for someone to mention that he hasn't killed dozens of people yet, but the media really seem to be falling down on that story.