Tuesday, April 17, 2007

That familiar ache...

When I heard the news of the shooting at Virginia Tech…even before the monumental loss of life was clear…I felt an ache in an old invisible emotion-based wound.

It’s an ache…just below the heart…where I imagine the soul resides.

In an instant I was taken back to December 1992 and the moment I learned of a shooting on the campus of my former school, Simon’s Rock College.

An ache.

I remember that I had been missing Simon’s Rock…having recently transferred…that I had been specifically missing the place when the news came on that there had been a shooting.

Just below the heart.





There were fatalities.

Where the soul resides.

Violence had come calling in a place that had been my home and refuge.

Every time an incident of violence happens on a campus…every time the media sets up camp…I feel it again, that familiar ache. And I am taken back to that space where sorrow and pain collide with anger and blame only to become…after time…an ache just below the heart where I hope the soul resides.

I lay my hand over it…just below my heart…and feel the heat of it…that ache…and the sad comfort it still provides…just below the heart…and yet understanding still eludes me.

But there is that ache.

That familiar ache.

Just below the heart where I know the soul resides.


Anonymous said...

I know that spot. My love to you always.

Sue said...

Oh, as always, a beautiful post. I feel ya...

Anonymous said...

My Pilipina sister sent me this:

What May Come: Asian Americans and the Virginia Tech Shootings

Tamara K. Nopper
April 17, 2007

Like many, I was glued to the television news yesterday, keeping updated about the horrific shootings at Virginia Tech University. I was trying to deal with my own disgust and sadness, especially since my professional life as a graduate student and college instructor is tied to universities. And then the other shoe dropped. I found out from a friend that the news channel she was watching had reported the shooter as Asian. It has now been reported, after much confusion, that the shooter is Cho Seung-Hui, a South Korean immigrant and Virginia Tech student.

As an Asian American woman, I am keenly aware that Asians are about to become a popular media topic if not the victims of physical backlash. Rarely have we gotten as much attention in the past ten years, except, perhaps, during the 1992 Los Angeles Riots. Since then Asians are seldom seen in the media except when one of us wins a golfing match, Woody Allen has sex, or Angelina Jolie adopts a kid.

I am not looking forward to the onslaught of media attention. If history truly does have clues about what will come, there may be several different ways we as Asian Americans will be talked about.

One, we will watch white media pundits and perhaps even sociologists explain what they understand as an "Asian" way of being. They will talk about how Asian males presumably have fragile egos, and therefore are culturally prone to engage in kamikaze style violence. These statements will be embedded with racist tropes about Japanese military fighters during WWII or the Viet Cong - the crazy, calculating, and hidden Asian man who will fight to the death over presumably nothing.

In the process, the white media might actually ask Asian Americans our perspectives for a change. We will probably be expected to apologize in some way for the behavior of another Asian, something whites never have to collectively do when one of theirs engages in (mass) violence, which is often. And then some of us might succumb to the Orientalist logic of the media by eagerly promoting Asian Americans as real Americans and therefore unlike Asians overseas who presumably engage in culturally reprehensible behavior. In other words, if we get to talk at all, Asian Americans will be expected to interpret, explain, and distance themselves from other Asians just to get airtime.

Or perhaps the media will take the color-blind approach instead of a strictly eugenic one. The media might try to whitewash the situation and treat Cho as just another alienated middle-class suburban kid. In some ways this is already happening, hence the constant referrals to the proximity of the shootings to the 8th anniversary of the Columbine killings. The media will repeat over and over words from a letter that Cho left behind speaking of "rich kids," and "deceitful charlatans." They will ask what's going on in middle-class communities that encourage this type of violence. In the process they may never talk about the dirty little secret about middle-class assimilation: for non-whites, it does not always prevent racial alienation, rage, or depression. This may be surprising given that we are bombarded with constant images suggesting that racial harmony will exist once we are all middle-class. But for many of us who have achieved middle-class life, even if we may not openly admit it, alienation does not stop if you are not white.

But the white media, being as tricky as it is, may probably talk about Cho in ways that reflect a combination of both traditional eugenic and colorblind approaches. They will emphasize Cho's ethnicity and economic background by wondering what would set off a hard-working, quiet, South Korean immigrant from a middle-class dry-cleaner- owning family. They will wonder why Cho would commit such acts of violence, which we expect from Middle Easterners and Muslims and those crazy Asians from overseas, but not from hard-working South Korean immigrants. They will promote Cho as "the model minority" who suddenly, for no reason, went crazy. Whereas eugenic approaches depicting Asians as crazy kamikazes or Viet Cong mercenaries emphasize Asian violence, the eugenic aspect of the model minority myth suggests that there is something about Asian Americans that makes them less prone to expressions of anger, rage, violence, or criminality. Indeed, we are not even seen as having legitimate reasons to have anger, let alone rage, hence the need to figure out what made this "quiet student snap."

Given that the model minority myth is a white racist invention that elevates Asians over minority groups, Cho will be dissected as an anomaly among South Koreans who "are not prone to violence” unlike Blacks who are racistly viewed as inherently violent or South Asians, Middle Easterners and Muslims who are viewed as potential terrorists. He will be talked about as acting "out of character" from the other "good South Koreans" who come here and quietly and dutifully work towards the American dream. Operating behind the scenes of course is a diplomatic relationship between the US and South Korea forged through bombs and military zones during the Korean War and expressed through the new free trade agreement negotiations between the countries. Indeed, even as South Korean diplomats express concern about racial backlash against Asians, they are quick to disown Cho in order to maintain the image of the respectable South Korean.

Whatever happens, Cho will become whoever the white media wants him to be and for whatever political platform it and legislators want to push. In the process, Asian Americans will, like other non-whites, be picked apart, dissected, and theorized by whites. As such, this is no different than any other day for Asian Americans. Only this time an Asian face will be on every television screen, internet search engine, and newspaper.

Tamara K. Nopper is an educator, writer, and activist living in Philadelphia. She can be reached at tnopper@yahoo.com.

J said...

This was a beautiful, beautiful post. That ache is too familiar to us now, I think.

Maya's Granny said...

So well written. Once more the tears slide down my face. Once more the ache of lost children, children who never had the chance to give their gift to the world fully.

Anonymous said...

Nicely said.

Editorial Cartoonist Rob Rogers kicked me in the gut today. For those of us old enough to remember...


geogrrl said...

When I heard the news I was taken back in time December 6, 1989, when I heard about the Montreal Massacre.

I waited for more news, wondering if the killer at Virginia Tech was repeating the crimes of that shit, Marc Lépine. This killer seems to have had a broader focus.

I cannot imagine the pain and the horror experienced by the victims, the survivors, their families and friends. I have no answers. I do not know what makes a person behave this way, but such incidents seem to be getting more frequent.

Anonymous said...

I know that ache too well.

I was there that December night when two of the nicest, kindest people you could imagine were taken from us.

Your post is beautiful and haunting, and I thank you for it.

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