A nation can't be tarred by one killer

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A nation can't be tarred by one killer

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By Raymond Zhou
Updated: 2007-04-19 07:10

The shooting rampage at Virginia Tech on Monday shocked the world. My thoughts and prayers are with the families and the community that suffered this senseless tragedy. Anyone with even a modicum of human compassion would feel the same.

It is only natural for people to be curious about the identity of the gunman. However, in the quest for truth, there is a disturbing sign of linking an individual act with something larger.

As long as the killer did not represent any group or harbor any political motive - as seems to be the case - any suggestion about his ethnicity will only add insult to injury and death. The rumor that he was Chinese before police positively identified him is indicative of a troubling trend, both in the US and in China, that one person, good or bad, somehow personifies a whole community, even a whole nation.

Some US media commentators' implications based on his ethnicity were not only unprofessional but insidious. If he were Chinese, did that mean Chinese people are intrinsically hostile to the US? Or that an average Chinese would act that way?

In a strange way, this reaction is reciprocated here in China. When news came that the killer was not Chinese, people heaved a collective sigh of relief. If you analyze the underlying logic, it means that his being Chinese would have incriminated all of us. Now that he was not, a few would say: "We Chinese would never do a crazy thing like that."

The truth is, a lone killer with no agenda could be of any ethnicity. We have our share of these loners, including Lu Gang, who gunned down several of his schoolmates and teachers on a US campus, and Ma Jiajue, who hacked several of his classmates with a machete.

Any society, no matter how well-balanced and harmonious, cannot be totally devoid of these people. They can never represent the society that they live in or that brought them up. Equating them with the society at large is to impugn innocent people who happen to share the killers' traits such as ethnicity or profession. It is guilt by association association of the most untenable kind.

I can understand why some would resort to such simplistic reasoning. The tragedy is so enormous that it is sometimes hard to reckon with the cause without further embellishing it. How can one crazy person mow down so many others, people he probably didn't even know?

While there is no way we can totally rid the world of such elements, there are, I believe, ways to minimize their damage.

One is psychological aid, especially for those who, shut in a cocoon of their own, have difficulty communicating with others and have no outlet for releasing negative energy. In the US, postmen are said to be more vulnerable than other professions. In China, college students should receive more counseling. Sometimes, it is up to peers to reach out to those who do not seek help.

Then, there is the easy availability of guns in America. While I fully respect US citizens' constitutional right to own guns, we must recognize that, in cases like the Virginia Tech incident, the use of guns was a crucial factor. If the killer did not have guns, he would probably have killed only a few people and could have more easily been constrained by others. It is not an exaggeration that it became the deadliest killing spree on an American campus mostly because he had two handguns, legally purchased.

We will never live in a world where everyone is happy and treats others with respect. That's a utopian ideal. But we can at least limit gun access so that one person won't be able to inflict destruction on a massive scale.

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Original Source:China Daily

<a href="http://www.chinadaily.com.cn/cndy/2007-04/19/content_853882.htm">http://www.chinadaily.com.cn/cndy/2007-04/19/content_853882.htm<a/>

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Raymond Zhou

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2007-07-25

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Na Mi

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eng

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Raymond Zhou, "A nation can&#39;t be tarred by one killer," in The April 16 Archive, Item #811, http://www.april16archive.org/items/show/811 (accessed October 31, 2014).