(this was originally posted in my personal blog in April 2007)
this washington post article actually asks some interesting questions. they are good questions, ones i have no answers to.
the question i have to extend is one about boundaries, about our limits in imagining the forms that violence can occupy. the author of the above writes thusly:
“All the cheap rage, all the macho posturing of a demented boy is condensed in that image. A young man holds out his arms, at eye level, each hand covered in a dark glove, each holding a gun. He wears a vest that looks vaguely military, and his eyes are set in a steely rage. A black cap, turned backwards, covers a shaved head, as if he meant to doubly annihilate his personality.”
but what exactly makes Cho’s presentation mere “posturing”? on what grounds can we qualify his rage as “cheap”? surely we can all agree that the costs of Cho’s “posturing” amount to some of the highest in recent history: 33 lives. highest toll ever in a school related shooting. if his rage were so cheap, it wouldn’t be making headlines.
if murdering 33 people in 2 separate killing sprees is “posturing”, it is hard to see how one might lay a claim to “the real thing”
from the introductory paragraph:
“It is chilling that we recognize this pose, that is so deeply a part of our society, that a profoundly disaffected young man reached for its simple form — a mixture of arms spread to menace and arms spread as if in expectation of crucifixion. The American Rage image so often brings with it that narcissism, that mix of grievance and anger.”
it seems to me that part of the panic over this event stems from a fear that this “American Rage image” (a tropological figure of christian redemption, nihilism, and anticommunitarianism) has had its iconicity shattered by the illegibility of a boy who we now know felt much more than he cared to show. and while idiot NBC reporters keep insisting on homogenizing-slash-“honkeying up” the social field (“college is all about football and being loud in clubs! i’ve never heard of an introvert IN COLLEGE! impossible!”), what i can’t help wondering is if, had the video footage contained a similarly stiff inarticulate white man, would the words “posturing” and “cheap” be falling from reporter’s mouths? would it be “posturing” if it were a black man with a gun?
what is chilling is not that we recognize such an icon. what is chilling is that such an icon is racially marked, that the media continues to reinscribe it as such even as it is being blown apart.
what is chilling is that the power behind such an image cannot, in the minds of the american public, cannot possibly be wielded by persons with almond eyes even after it clearly just was