Guest Opinion: Brian Hanley


Guest Opinion: Brian Hanley


<b>A different perspective on the Virginia Tech shootings</b>

By: Brian Hanley
Posted: 4/19/07

My time here at UC Davis comes after spending years in Central Asia. This tragedy at Virginia Tech is uniquely America of this era, but it is not unique in terms of death. It is most unique in the utter divorce from any apparent meaningful social grouping for the young perpetrator.

The city where I ran an office had seen two civil wars. I have walked by multiple flaming barricades with flames leaping 30 feet in the air, quietly acting the part of someone who belonged there. I have watched events develop of many kinds, and employed staff who grew up playing games as young boys of counting the most dead bodies.

Our office was in a fairly secure building, where men with AK-47s sat in a pillbox built in the lobby. I know of an incident where young men attacked an apartment in broad daylight with hand grenades and guns, but in a gallows humor twist worthy of "South Park," they were defeated by the mothers inside who had lived through the wars.

Living in a place where beheading, kidnapping and simple murder as well as accidentally being caught in crossfire was as real a possibility as being hit by a car while crossing the street, I have thought about such violence. In another time and place, perhaps this man would have joined a violent political movement, or maybe he would have joined the gangster army of a warlord intent on enriching himself and accruing fabulous power.

In another time and place, perhaps he would have been a willing recruit to drive a truck bomb into a crowd, cloaking himself in some convenient ideology, hopeful that in his dying, he would further the cause of sparking wider war.

Such is an atavistic hate-filled impulse to destroy. But underneath it is more than this. It is also fueled at a deeper level by a very personal, desperate impulse to make a mark upon the world, to "be somebody." This is something we should remember when we look at CNN and see truck bombs or similar things. There is not so great a distance as we might think. And the character of those who do such things does not much resemble noble purpose.

In part, such violence abroad can be political. And sometimes there comes a wider support in a culture which forms a larger armed movement. The fundamental fuel for wider support is ideology; it is not economics, nor is it even oppression. Couple that with cruelty and willingness to discipline an organization in the manner of any successful gangster and there it is.

But always, in any culture, there are young men on the fringe such as this one. In another time and place such men can be made the pawns of cleverer men to do horrific things, and die believing in their place in history. I say this because I think that it can help us to understand better something about seemingly different violence others sometimes face.


Original Source:<a href=>The California Aggie - April 19, 2007</a>


Brian Hanley


The California Aggie




Sara Hood


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Brian Hanley, “Guest Opinion: Brian Hanley,” The April 16 Archive, accessed September 25, 2017,