The photos above have been taken from the front page of news from CNN, Washington Post, Seattle PI, New York Times, Chicago Tribune. Many of the photos I saw around the internet today depicted mourning students, photos of some of the victims, students holding prayer vigils for those whose were killed in the shootings.
However, FOX News had a different image they wanted to portray yesterday. The image of a MADMAN.
It looked like it was Cho Seung-Hui’s ID card photo, with MADMAN scrawled in large, bold letters above his photo (they have since taken the image they had on their website down before I had a chance to grab a screenshot of it).
What does an image like this do to our perception of both Cho Seung-Hui and other people whose clinical depression and other issues may drive them to act out violently? How is our perception dramatically changed because of media, especially media sources like FOX News? We had an interesting discussion about the travesty at Virginia Tech today in my pastoral care class. I brought up this photo on FOX News and we talked about what it means to call someone a madman. Immediately, you are able to separate yourself from the person; they become the Other. It also distances us from thinking about the possibility that we too have the potential for doing such violent acts.
To other Cho Seung-Hui is to demonize him, to elevate ourselves and look down on him with disdain and hate; all things that seem to be very un-Christian, considering we’re supposed to love even our enemies.
To say all of this does not lessen the sadness, the hideousness and the viciousness of the crime that Seung-Hui committed. It does however have to do with how we respond to both Seung-Hui, to the victims and to the situation. Unfortunately, this is not the last school shooting we will encounter in the states. But it should cause us to stop and think about how we may have demonized or “other”ed Seung-Hui and “others” like him. In what ways do we “other” friends at school, co-workers in the office or even the homeless woman you walk past every day to get to school or work. Now, to live with such a fear that anyone at any moment could point a gun to our head is not healthy, and no way to live. It only continues to contribute to the culture of fear this country has been told it must live under.
But it could only be a good thing to become more aware of the others in our lives, how we treat them, and how we, if we are people of faith, should be treating them.