Abandon Text!

W. H. Auden once said: "Poems are not finished; they are abandoned." I have been abandoning writing projects for many years, since only the pressure of deadline and high expectations ever got me to finish, or even start, anything of merit. This blog is an attempt to create a more consistent, self-directed writing habit. Hopefully a direction and voice will emerge.

Friday, April 20, 2007

What he lacked . . . and why

"Do you believe in 'bad seeds'?" my wife asked last night.

Is evil the result of trauma and deprivation, or are some people just born bad? Kenny pointed me to an op-ed piece in the New York Times in which a professor made a case for "evil genes." While the mood of tragedy still hangs in the air, no one is willing yet to assign blame, but nature/nurture debaters are standing by on high alert, anxiously awaiting details on Cho's background.

American psycho-mythology has two models for understanding this sort of case. No one will be surprised if Cho was the victim of some sort of neglect or abuse: another basically-good kid who had his humanity strangulated at an early age. Then again, it seems equally likely that he might have just been born that way: a smaller amygdala, a paucity of serotonin, a mix-up in the wiring. Both models are difficult to falsify: both abuse and bad genes can lurk under the surface, hidden from view. Both the nature and nurture sides will probably claim points in this case.

I, for one, will back up NBC in their decision to air some of Cho's video. We do need to see this. I don't think we need to fear for Cho's immortal soul, because looking at that video confirms, for me, that he had lost his soul long ago. His words are angry, his face is fixed in hate, but fundamentally I could sense no affect in him. He was dead inside. (I find it somewhat ironic that his affectless face reminds me so much of the Botox blankness of certain celebrities, the very people he probably despised.)

Whether born or created, it certainly happens early on. As his great-aunt said: "He didn't talk. He was always cold." Even by eight years old, "warning signs" were present. So much of our fate is determined so early on . . .

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