Saturday, April 21, 2007

Notorious Cho: Death of A Dream

Arthur Hu For Asian Week 4/20/2007

Yes, Virgnia Tech’s Cho Seung-Hui was from Korea, but we needed an Asian American talking head who could make sense of a biography that reads like the all-Korean American success story. As an assimilated 1.5 generation immigrant, Cho was still trapped in a living stereotype. Christian two-parent family moves from poverty in Korea to affluent, high test score Fairfax County. You’d think that the Cho’s had it made over your average at-risk non-Asian minority who works at a crummy job, lives in a crummy neighborhood, and gets failing state assessment test scores.

It was in jest 17 years ago when I wrote in AsianWeek that one day some frustrated Asian male might decide to take it out on everybody in sight with an AK-47 because American culture fairly or not favors white males matched up with Asian females. This young man was in trouble for hitting on women and bragged about an imaginary girlfriend.

He wasn’t poor, but was surrounded by rich kids he hated. The Korean club says he didn’t seek the company of Asians either. He disliked his mother’s Korean church. When his mother dropped him off, she asked his roommate to help out, though Cho would refuse any overtures. He fell between the cracks, perhaps as one of those marginal men in Asian American studies. Virginia Tech might have been like the B+ grade that drove that internet mother crazy compared to Princeton.

My father told me it was important to mix with kids on youth symphony break, but I still felt the Asian urge to put study ahead of making lots of friends. Asian culture often bases networks on family, but it’s American parents put in a lot of effort to organize play dates, birthday parties, ball games and dances. Two parents in the dry cleaning business means long hours out of the
house, which sounds more like Cat’s in the Cradle than Leave it to Beaver.

The real moral of this story? Something went terribly wrong in this pursuit of the American Dream. Where are the parents who have hidden from the press? Your parents weren’t weird if they were strict or didn’t hug, they were just being Asian. It’s taken Asian America this long before one of these ticking bombs went off. Somebody forgot what is REALLY IMPORTANT.

It’s not the right house or the right college. The best SAT scores mean nothing if a boy feels unloved and cannot bring himself to love others. When the cops knocked on his door, he felt cornered with no choice but to shoot everybody. Whatever grades your kids bring home, be thankful if they don’t end up as a psychotic mass murderer or a terrible playwright. Asian parents, we have much to be proud of, but let us pray for guidance from above that we never mess up like this again.

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