"Tolerance" Causes the Virginia Tech Massacre

Regis University’s ongoing struggles with the nitty gritty of teaching tolerance in a religious setting has taken on more weight since Virginia Tech hit the news.

One week has passed since the massacre, and the media has thoroughly peeled away the onion layers of gunman Cho Seung-Hui, revealing yet another pathetic, self-absorbed man-child so devoid of insight or empathy that he confused vengeful martyrdom with what, outside of his delusion, really amounted to nothing more than an armed temper tantrum.

Still, amid all the depressing clichés uncovered, reporters and pundits are attempting to affix the event to a larger narrative about American culture. What has this taught us about violence? About youth? About ... [fill in the blank]? The response has been largely predictable: The anti-gun crowd has a sure-fire talking point to push for greater gun control, while yakkers from the From-My-Cold-Dead-Hand camp have blasted back, some with the amazing suggestion that the carnage could have been prevented if more students and teachers were outfitted with weaponry -- and shot Cho down before he had the satisfaction of doing it himself.

Liberal or conservative, political opinion-makers were already hunkered down on this issue long before Virginia Tech became yet another synonym for tragedy, and they’ll interpret the event accordingly. But it’s truly astounding when a pundit like Pat Buchanan has to bend himself into a rhetorical pretzel to fit Cho into his paleoconservative agenda. In an April 20 column on the subject, he begins on solid right-wing footing by blazing the media and echoing the arm-the-teachers argument cited above. Then things start to get interesting, however, when Buchanan goes on to explain how multiculturalism is to blame for the killings.

“Though he spent four years on campus, no one knew who Cho was,” Buchanan writes, “which bespeaks a larger point. Colleges have grown into city-sized universities of tens of thousands and have ceased to be communities, even as the United States is ceasing to be a country, a nation and a people.”

The ideology of diversity is at fault, Buchanan continues, because “[w]e are told that among the worst of sins is to be judgmental about how others behave,” which allowed administrators and students to accept Cho’s self-imposed outsider status. The real problem, he concludes, is that “there is such a thing as too much tolerance.”

This argument is a stretch, even by Buchanan’s standards. First off, Cho was a pariah at the school. As Buchanan points out himself, the masters of multiculturalism singled him out several times for his strange behavior, including his creative-writing teacher, who kicked him out of her class for disturbing other students and referred him to administrators. That’s not the kind of blind tolerance that Buchanan and others on the right say infects the liberal mindset, but an example of a very swift reaction to unacceptable conduct. In fact, Cho was one person who would’ve wholeheartedly agreed with Buchanan’s belief that Virginia Tech is an over-tolerant environment. When police investigated his dorm room after the shooting they found a note that denounces "rich kids," "debauchery" and "deceitful charlatans."

If there was one attribute that Cho didn’t embody it was the values behind multiculturalism. That’s because true tolerance – unlike Cho’s feeble attempt at existential complexity – cannot be taught through the barrel of a gun. – Jared Jacang Maher

Amy Haimerl