Reaction by a Virginia Tech Alum of the shootings and aftermath
By: Jeff Wismer
What happened on April 16, 2007 at Virginia Tech, my alma mater, was incredibly sad. Unfortunately what happened in the aftermath of the shootings was also sad. Not the same degree of sadness I felt for the victims and the victim’s families. However when I see religious sycophantic dogmatic fundamentalist Dominionists preying upon the victim’s families, and all the VaTech students I am sickened and disgusted. You may see the surface of general compassion by these people, by a see a deeper choice to trespass upon Virginia Tech’s campus and exploit a terrible situation, to recruit, and to further entrap the victim’s minds into a superstitious prison. Similar to the superstitious stories of vampires, who oftentimes suck the blood of the weakest victims. Of course this activity by these religious vampires is not surprising to me. Moreover the shooting was not a surprise to anyone who has witnessed the world of unhealthy depression, anxiety, paranoia, and anger. By unhealthy I mean exceeding in moderation. One of my first reactions was as follows:
That's right...label him as a homicidal maniac, a monster, and an evil-doer...b/c that's what's easy and why not when the President labels an entire civilization as such.
The intellectual laziness in this country is reaching all time levels of ineptitude. Education in this country is bottoming out at all time dangerous levels of illiteracy, scientific understanding, and critical thinking. It's everyone's fault that this happens, b/c we've all stood idly by for the past 25 years as we brushed aside AIDS, depression, environment, and health care.
Of course I realize when you live in a society that has it so good, that this inherently will happen, and the weak, unhealthy, and those in real need of care will be disposed of in places we see fit to dispose them.
This young man is just another product of years of societal neglect and turning a blind eye to the problems festering and growing like a cancer in our society. Religious fanaticism, bigotry, racism, and cruel indifference. WE will all continue to suffer these consequences and many others in the near future if we continue on this path of personal and community wide destruction. None of us are immune to it.
President Bush, Global Warming, Terrorism, Ignorance, and War are all products of a unhealthy system that as been unchecked and unbalanced for at least the last 25 years, b/c we lack accountability...and anything that allows us to shift or disavow our responsibilities is unhealthy...and that's why I think modern religions such as Christianity and Islam are fueling the destruction of humanity, b/c they are dogmatically fighting against humanity and distracting humans away from their accountability, and giving humans a convenient escape from their responsibility.
I wrote that last week, when I was still very angry, frustrated, and going through my own temporary bout of depression (which was most likely a combination of the Virginia Tech shootings, and having to remember the night of my DUI arrest-which happened after I had a fight with my best friend from Virginia Tech, after the 2005 UVA-VT football game). I’ve had some time to heal, and reflect back on the week that was.
Yes what a terrible week
that was for the world. It started with
a chaotic storm system that left many without electric power and near record
cold temperatures for that time of year.
The Monday commute into work was dreadful, and one wondered how much
longer we would have to endure these conditions. I sat down at my computer at work, just like
any other day, and then went to yahoo.com to check on today’s headlines. At first the headline about Virginia Tech
seemed trivial (eerily similar to the initial news casts about 9/11) and so I
went about my business. Until I started
seeing that the body count had risen from 2 to 20 in a blink of an eye. Then it went to 30+. It was easy to foresee the hand writing on
the wall, and besides the barrage of media that would descend on the lowly,
sleepy town of
We are not new to these
people trespassing into our personal lives.
It happens all the time, whether we realize it or not. Didn’t the Supreme Court of the
Case in point at Virginia Tech:
Franklin Graham. One of the first vampires to trespass on the Virginia Tech Campus. One only needs to read a few paragraphs of his words to understand what sort of a vampire he is…
Franklin Graham: Satan Behind Virginia Tech Killings
Evangelist Franklin Graham said Cho
Seung-Hui, the killer at
Appearing as a guest Wednesday on Fox News Channel, Graham said the need for healing is great in a community shattered by a madman’s shooting rampage.
"There is a big spiritual need here,” Graham said. "Kids are questioning, ‘Did God abandon us? Why did God allow this to happen?’ . . . They need love, they need our prayers . . . They need a touch from Almighty God.”
Graham, president and CEO of the Billy Graham Evangelistic Association, sent 20 chaplains from his ministry’s Rapid Response Team to the Virginia Tech campus to help students, faculty and staff deal with their emotions in the wake of the massacre.
Graham placed the blame solely on Satan with Cho as the instrument to carry out his evil deeds.
"There is evil in the world, no question about it,” Graham said. "I believe Satan, the devil, is behind this … This young man was filled with evil. There’s no way to describe the fact that he could go and murder this many people and do what he did without this man being possessed by an evil spirit who brought this carnage on this university.”
Graham said he would counsel forgiveness among the students and families touched by the horrific murders.
"You have to forgive,” Graham said. "This was a human being. What he did was wrong, what he did was evil. Absolutely, we can forgive, but I’m not concerned about this young man right now. I’m concerned with the families of his victims.”
A vampire such as Franklin Graham has now found a desirable place to “hang” out for a while among the weakened students who have an abundance of unhealthy fear of death (some what understandable considering the maturity, and lack of real life experience of most of the students).
April 24, 2007
Graham ministry team still working at Virginia Tech
The ministry of Billly Graham is still
working on the Virginia Tech campus. One day after the tragedy, Graham's
Graham's crisis response team is still there working with not only students, but faculty, family members of the victims and first responders.
There are at least 14 chaplains on the campus praying with anyone who asks for help. The director says the team was formed after 9/11 to give communities strength again.
The group plans to be on campus for at least a month, maybe longer.
Franklin Graham isn’t the only vampire “hanging” out at Virginia Tech. These vampires having nothing better to do that to grant magical spells as a cure-all to the unhealthy fear of death. These vampires have skilled tongues, that spew words pleasing and comforting to an ailing ear, and sweet honey and sugar candy encapsulate their lips as they embrace and kiss you and their tears are made of lemon drops that will break down human defenses as efficiently as water breaking thru pours in a lime Hokie stone. Their faces became readily available on the major media networks, has they never shy away from a camera appearance, to show what good, caring, and compassionate vampires they are. All the while as soon as the cameras are turned away, they look to capture their next victim who was touched by what they just heard. People choose to make themselves more susceptible to this type of poison by choosing to believe in fairy tales, superstition, and super heros. Evangelical is just another name for the sheep who follow any dogmatic religion based on superstition.
Sarah Kernochan in a recent Huffingtonpost article asks whether we should have any sympathy for evangelicals. Sarah Kernochan was behind the controversial documentary “Marjoe”.
In 1971, my partner Howard Smith and I went on an indelible odyssey into Pentacostal
Our guide and film subject was young Marjoe Gortner, a handsome, charismatic preacher whose career began at the age of four, when he was "called to God" (or so his parents had everyone believing). Marjoe talked behind the scenes about the tricks of his trade, the faking of miracles and glossalalia; raising money for the phony "ministries"; how to work up the crowd; his non-belief in God. He sold cheap red bandanas as "prayer cloths," hawked LP's of his childhood sermons, and split the "tithing" take with his host minister in front of our camera.
We filmed at four
completely different churches in the West, South, and
The problems at Virginia Tech will not be healed thru magic and wishful thinking. Evangelicals only offer an illusion and purposefully stay away from hard facts, and reality. Time, hard work, and psychotherapy on many different levels will in the end bring about a complete embracing of what happened that terrible day.
On the other hand we have vampires who chose not to swoop in to campus, yet chose to rail on atheists.
Newt Gingrich & Rev. Donald Wildmon (of American Family Association). Ever wonder why these vampires have to have such nice, touchy feeling organizational titles?
(on ABC) Gingrich responded with this gem. “Yes,” he said, “I think the fact is, if you look at the amount of violence we have in games that young people play at 7, 8, 10, 12, 15 years of age, if you look at the dehumanization, if you look at thefact that we refuse to say that we are, in fact, endowed by our Creator, that our rights come from God, that if you kill somebody, you’re committing an act of evil.”
For good measure, the Rev. Donald Wildmon’s American Family Association (AFA) has piled on, issuing a completely tasteless video blaming the Virginia Tech tragedy on the alleged expulsion of God from public education.
The video, titled “The Day They Kicked God out of the Schools” begins with a voice-over from “Concerned Students” asking God why He did not save the school children at multiple school shootings in recent years. Comes God’s reply: “Dear concerned students, I am not allowed in schools. Sincerely, God.”
(In another incredibly tactless move, the AFA is selling the video for $5 apiece – nothing like making a quick buck on personal tragedy.)
Furthermore…I hope the following passage makes you sick, sick enough to write this fucking asshole (no I don’t mince words here) and tell him to shut the fuck up.
Where Is Atheism When Bad Things Happen?
Notice something interesting about the aftermath of the Virginia Tech shootings? Atheists are nowhere to be found. Every time there is a public gathering there is talk of God and divine mercy and spiritual healing. Even secular people like the poet Nikki Giovanni use language that is heavily drenched with religious symbolism and meaning.
The atheist writer Richard Dawkins has observed that according to the findings of modern science, the universe has all the properties of a system that is utterly devoid of meaning. The main characteristic of the universe is pitiless indifference. Dawkins further argues that we human beings are simply agglomerations of molecules, assembled into functional units over millennia of natural selection, and as for the soul--well, that's an illusion!
To no one's surprise, Dawkins has not been invited to speak to the grieving Virginia Tech community. What this tells me is that if it's difficult to know where God is when bad things happen, it is even more difficult for atheism to deal with the problem of evil. The reason is that in a purely materialist universe, immaterial things like good and evil and souls simply do not exist. For scientific atheists like Dawkins, Cho's shooting of all those people can be understood in this way--molecules acting upon molecules.
If this is the best that modern science has to offer us, I think we need something more than modern science.
Luckily there is a real man, a Professor at Virginia Tech, not some coward piece of shit like Dinesh, who responded…
I am an atheist and a professor at Virginia Tech. Dinesh D’Souza says that I don’t exist, that I have nothing to say, that I am nowhere to be found.
But I am here.
I thought it worthwhile to say
something in response, not because most people would put the point in the same
morally reptilian manner as D’Souza, but because
there is at least some vague sense amongst people that we atheists don’t quite
grasp the enormity of Monday’s events, that we tend towards a cold-hearted
manner of thinking, that we condescend to expressions of community, meaning, or
So I will tell you, Mr D’Souza, what I grasp and where I am to be found.
I understand why my wife was frantic on Monday morning, trying to contact me through jammed phone lines. I can still feel the tenor of her voice resonating in my veins when she got through to me, how she shook with relief and tears. I remember how my mother looked the last time she thought she might have lost a son, so I have a vivid image of her and a thousand other mothers that hasn’t quite left my mind yet.
I am to be found in Lane Stadium, looking out over a sea of maroon and orange, trying not to break down when someone mentions the inviolability of the classroom and the bond between a teacher and his students. That is my classroom, Mr D’Souza, my students, my chosen responsibility in this godless life, my small office in the care of humanity and its youth.
I know that brutal death can come unannounced into any life, but that we should aspire to look at our approaching death with equanimity, with a sense that it completes a well-walked trail, that it is a privilege to have our stories run through to their proper end. I don’t need to live forever to live once and to live completely. It is precisely because I don’t believe there is an afterlife that I am so horrified by the stabbing and slashing and tattering of so many lives around me this week, the despoliation and ruination of the only thing each of us will ever have.
We atheists do not believe in gods, or angels, or demons, or souls that endure, or a meeting place after all is said and done where more can be said and done and the point of it all revealed. We don’t believe in the possibility of redemption after our lives, but the necessity of compassion in our lives. We believe in people, in their joys and pains, in their good ideas and their wit and wisdom. We believe in human rights and dignity, and we know what it is for those to be trampled on by brutes and vandals. We may believe that the universe is pitilessly indifferent but we know that friends and strangers alike most certainly are not. We despise atrocity, not because a god tells us that it is wrong, but because if not massacre then nothing could be wrong.
I am to be found on the drillfield with a candle in my hand. “Amazing Grace” is a beautiful song, and I can sing it for its beauty and its peacefulness. I don’t believe in any god, but I do believe in those people who have struggled through pain and found some solace in their religion. I am not at odds with them any more than I am at odds with Americans when we sing the “Star-Spangled Banner” just because I am not American.
I know that the theory of natural selection is the best explanation for the emergence and development of human beings and other species. I know that our bodies are composed of flesh, bone, and blood, and cells, and molecules. I also know that this does not account for all aspects of our lives, but I know no-one who ever thought it did. That is why we have science, and novels, and friendships, and poetry, and practical jokes, and photography, and a sense of awe at the immensity of time and the planet’s natural history, and walks with loved ones along the Huckleberry Trail, and atheist friends who keep kosher because, well just because, and passionate reverence for both those heroes who believed and those who did not, and have all this without needing a god to stitch together the tapestry of life.
I believe this young man was both sick and vicious, that his actions were both heinous and the result of a phenomenon that we must try to understand precisely so that we can prevent it in future. I have no sympathy for him. Given what he has done, I am not particularly sorry he has spared the world his continued existence; there was no possibility of redemption for him. You think we atheists have difficulty with the concept of evil. Quite the contrary. We can accept a description of this man as evil. We just don’t think that is an explanation. That is why we are exasperated at your mindless demonology.
We think the pain is complete and absolute. We know it is.
We think that nothing can heal these hearts, that time can only take the sharpness off the agony, that only in time can beauty be wholeheartedly seen again or laughter felt deep inside.
We insist there is no sense or meaning to be made of this massacre. There was only sense and meaning to be created within the lives of each person gunned down. That is why we are horrified by it. That is precisely why it is so horrific.
We don't believe these people have died for anything: God's plan, as a beacon to the rest of us, to be a vivid memento mori for all. We just believe they have died, brutally and without mercy. We refuse to lie to grieving mothers out of some patronising sense that a pleasant myth is more respectful than a terrible truth.
Those of us with the slightest shred of decency do not tell widows to deal with it, to get over it. That the world can be callous is no reason to be so myself. I know that no family could ever get over this loss, that no family should ever be expected to get over this loss -- either by themselves, by religious rhetoricians bearing false platitudes, or by inane political pundits -- but that not getting over the loss does not preclude some other kind of happiness, some other source of joy, at some other time. Not now, not in this moment, not when they have moved on, but only when it comes to them one day, like light dawning slowly.
We know the world is cold, and that only people can make it warmer. We believe we can live in this imperfection, like a child can live without fulfilling her desperate wish for wings. We rail against injustice and tragedy, not the absence of deeper guarantees.
Some of us are those grieving mothers and wives and friends and colleagues. Some of us are inconsolable, but dignified for all that.
There is no language appropriate to the magnitude of the tragedy. Not stories about a poor man nailed to a cross, not fine words about a time for healing and a time for dying, not even the lines of the poet who, in the midst of his own horror, struggles to ask:
How can I embellish this carnival of slaughter, How decorate the massacre?
I feel humbled by the sense of composure of a family who lost someone on Monday. I will not insult that dignity by pretending there is sense to be made of this senselessness, or that there is some greater consolation to be found in the loss of a husband and son.
I know my students are now more than students.
You can find us next week in the bloodied classrooms of a violated campus, trying to piece our thoughts and lives and studies back together.
With or without a belief in a god, with or without your asinine bigotry, we will make progress, we will breathe life back into our university, I will succeed in explaining this or that point, slowly, eventually, in a ham-handed way, at risk of tears half-way through, my students will come to feel comfortable again in a classroom with no windows or escape route, and hell yes we will prevail.
You see Mr D’Souza, I am an atheist professor at Virginia Tech and a man of great faith. Not faith in your god. Faith in my people.
For more excellent reading on the atheist viewpoint on the Virginia Tech shootings go here: