Virginia Tech and Cho Seung Hui

The biggest massacre in U.S history stuns us. Senator Kennedy immediately issues appeals about gun control. Dianne Sawyer confronts the President of Virginia Tech to ask if he should resign. Many of the rest of us wonder about violence in our culture. We’ve killed more than 100,000 Iraqi citizens under George Bush and wounded half a million: If one lives by the sword, does one die by it?

All sorts of thoughts cross our minds. Everyone seems to be interviewing everyone. But I’ve noticed no one interviews David Geffen. Geffen is one of those quiet, silent, forces in American society which manufactures and distributes “gangsta rap.” His old specialty was called “murder music.” How apropos if Diane Sawyer shoved a microphone in the face of this engineer of violence, misogyny, and religious defamation, to ask a few questions. But Geffen lounges in his Malibu beach house not the slightest object of any media curiosity.

But perhaps that is as it should be, because when we come upon this assassin, Chow Seung Hui, we realize it was not media violence that lured and seduced him into this massacre. That might have been true of the Columbine killers, who deeply appreciated Geffen’s contribution to American culture, but not so for Hui.

Hui was motivated by something else. He was deeply unhappy. He had no friends, none in high school, none in college. No friends in his entire adult life. He struggled with being Korean in a country which never accepted him. Never, in his mind, not ever.

And, sure, he wanted to have a girlfriend, but he didn’t, not one, so he created an imaginary one. And in his virtual, insular world, he had a favorite song, one that he played over and over and over. I think it is appropriate to quote and read it in its entirety. This is what an assassin who killed 32 people on Monday listened to. It wasn’t David Geffen’s murder music after all. It was from Collective Soul:

Give me a word
Give me a sign
Show me where to look
Tell what will I find ( will I find )

Lay me on the ground
Fly me in the sky
Show me where to look
Tell me what will I find ( will I find )

Oh, heaven let your light shine down

Love is in the water
Love is in the air
Show me where to go
Tell me will love be there ( love be there )
Teach me how to speak
Teach me how to share
Teach me where to go
Tell me will love be there ( love be there )

Oh, heaven let your light shine down

I’m going to let it shine
Heavens little light gonna shine on me
Yea yea heavens little light gonna shine on me
Its gonna shine, shine on me.

Once Cho Seung Hui was hopeful. He was waiting for love, hoping it would shine on him, but no matter how often he played it, and no matter how many imaginary girlfriends he conjured up, it never came. Two days ago, he gave up.

Perhaps instead of focusing on gun control, David Geffen, media violence, or beefing up campus security, we should look more closely at the alienation and lack of intimacy in American life. After her first visit to this country, Mother Teresa said the United States was the “loneliest” country she had ever been in. A recent Pew poll bears out her impressions by reporting that the number of Americans who have “no one to talk to about a personal issue” has more than doubled in just the last decade. We need to direct our attention to the lonely, depressed, alienated, and emotionally discarded segments of our society. There needs to be a sincere national dialogue about psychotherapy, mental health, and the absence of love in our society which gives rise to the evil that we all are trying to come to terms with today

JERRY KROTH, Ph.D., is an Associate Professor in the Graduate Division of Counseling Psychology at Santa Clara University in California and a licensed therapist in California.


Jerry Kroth, Ph.D. is an Associate Professor Emeritus from the graduate division of psychology at Santa Clara University. He may be contacted at his website,