One of the more annoying features of American culture is our constant overreaction to everything bad that happens. Anything the media deems to be a crisis or a tragedy is immediately met with overwrought hand-wringing and pleas for the government to do something – anything – to keep us all safe from the boogie man. And so in the aftermath of the VT shootings, and particularly the reports that the killer had written violent plays and stories, you just knew that a bunch of other people were going to get caught up in the post-tragedy hysteria and deemed a danger for no other reason than that they write, or even read, stories that contain violence in them.
I present the first victim of our overreaction, Allen Lee. Oh, I guess I was wrong to say that a violent story was the only evidence against him; after all, he is Asian just like the VT killer. That’s probable cause, isn’t it? He’s been arrested for disorderly conduct for turning in a paper for a creative writing class – a paper that was supposed to “express an emotion” – that the teacher freaked out about. Disorderly conduct. For turning in his homework.
All of this is quite absurd. We live in a culture that is saturated with violent stories, on TV, in movies and even in music. Do we start 24 hour surveillance on Stephen King who, other than being a hack writer, has never actually hurt anyone? Do we lock up Clive Barker and Robert Englund and force Quentin Tarantino to start writing movies about fuzzy bunnies and Santa Claus?
Lots and lots of people write violent stories and tens of millions of people read, watch and enjoy them. Yet only the tiniest fraction, perhaps 1/100th of one percent, actually commit violence against anyone. Deciding that the lesson to be learned from the VT shootings is that everyone who writes violent stories is potentially the next killer is as absurd as deciding that the lesson is that all Koreans are the next killer, or that all men are the next killer. Classic American overreaction.