God’s Lonely Men
August 6, 2009
When I heard that a man had walked into a gym outside Pittsburgh on Tuesday and opened fire killing three women and himself, my first thought was—“God, I hope the shooter isn’t Asian.” In this case, the killer turned out to be a 48-year-old Caucasian man named George Sodini. An online blog plus notes found at his home suggested Sodini specifically targeted women for constantly “rejecting” him. Read a pdf excerpt from his online diary here.
Was it wrong for me to assume that the killer may have been an Asian male? After all, there are valid reasons for thinking this—many of our recent high profile shooters have been Asian like in the case of the Virginia Tech massacre by Korean student Seung-Hui Cho.
Still, what is it about these incidents that make me immediately wonder if an Asian male is responsible? It wasn’t too long ago when I was studying behavioral science in college during the brief period when I actually planned to go to Quantico and become an FBI agent. At the time, almost all the serial killers and mass shooters we knew of in America were Caucasians. The theory was that persons of color were unlikely to commit such acts and if they did, it would be crimes committed against others of the same ethnicity or race. So if a Korean American were to go on a rampage, he would target other Koreans. In the past decade, this theory’s been proven wrong too many times.
I was also a teaching assistant for an Asian American studies class then (this was the early 1990s) and I noticed another phenomenon. No matter what topic we were covering, there were a number of Asian American male students who would always bring the discussion back to the subject of how Asian men were always “getting the short end of the stick” in American society–how they were constantly being emasculated, ignored and devalued.
There was this one student in particular who was only a year younger than me for whom this issue was especially important. He spoke with such conviction about how he was treated unfairly as an Asian male and sometimes he got so passionate that it freaked out some of the other students. A lot of his frustration was directed at women—Asian, Caucasian and others—because he felt as an Asian man in America, he was being rejected by all of them. I’m not saying this kid fit the profile of a killer, but I wondered if he would turn out OK.
I can dismiss this sort of behavior as something I only observed in others, but if I’m to be honest, I have to say I probably had more in common with that kid then I would have been willing to admit at the time. As a teen, I had a lot of anger and pain that manifested itself in all sorts of unhealthy behavior. But I was lucky to have people who cared about me including a woman I met during high school whose love may have been enough to keep me from going off the deep end.
But whenever I hear of a shooting like the one that happened on Tuesday, I now think of that kid in that Asian American studies class. I wonder where he is. I wonder how he’s doing. He must be in his mid/late-30s and I just hope he’s found peace in his life. I think of all the other young Asian men out there who may be feeling those same feelings of loneliness and inadequacy. Feelings I can still recognize. And I say a little prayer for all of God’s lonely men walking among us.