Like the rest of the world, I’m horrified by the recent events at Virginia Tech. I’ve been amazed by the matter-of-fact accounts by students who survived the rampage – while I know that they are literally in shock, this is the first time I’ve ever felt really disassociated from college students. Like, these are no longer my people. Like, I am old.
And maybe because I am older, the really horrifying thing to me is the idea of having to call my mother and say, “It’s ok – I’m alive.”
Because it’s not ok. It’s not ok for any parent, anywhere, to ever have to worry if their child is physically harmed, if it was their child who died on the scene, if their baby will need years and years of therapy to deal with half an hour of horror.
There are so many people writing about the situation, about the societal implications, about the paralyzing grief, about opinions that are better informed than mine, so we’ll let them take care of that.
I need to speak out on behalf of a people who are misrepresented by this tragedy.
I’m talking about the English majors.
We are the people whose parents groan when we announce our chosen major. Ours is a path littered with “so, gonna live in the parents’ basement, huh?” and “so, I guess you’re gonna teach?” comments.
When our friends with accounting and engineering degrees start out making $50K right out of school, we’re the unpaid interns investigating food stamps. But by god, we can write.
We can write, and if we are lucky, we realize that this is actually a fairly rare skill, and we build careers upon it. If we are lucky, we live to tell that an English degree is a useful tool. It’s not like majoring in Primitive Cultures.
I put up with my fair share of tortured artistes in my degree program, dudes who announced on the first day of that sophomore seminar that this was, indeed, their life’s work, and that we’d better take their shitty ars poetica very, very seriously. I’ve smiled and nodded and made mental notes to never wear clothing promoting the latest beer bash, lest I out myself as a brainless sorority girl. I have played the game.
And there have been a few creepy folks that I generally avoided, people who fancied themselves as dark and tortured. The creative writing they submitted for peer review was usually about cutting or incest or something. But I never ran into a student who made me afraid. And for that, my heart goes out to the Hokies – they shouldn’t have ever been afraid of a fellow student, either – no matter what his major.
The idea of Nikki Giovanni threatening to resign unless Cho Seung-Hui was removed from her class really floors me. She’s a bad-ass poet, and has admittedly taught “troubled” students. So what made Cho different? And how do you, as an individual, help without placing yourself in harm’s way?
This former classmate of Cho notes that there’s no process in place for saying, “This dude might have some issues – can you check it out?”
In a world where we’re suddenly the grown-ups, who do you tell?