This small item in today’s Khaleej Times, a daily newspaper in Dubai, is heartening: Seung-Hui Cho, the man who killed 32 of his peers at Virginia Tech last week, is included in an on-campus memorial to the victims. At Cho’s memorial stone in the center of the school’s campus, a few people have not only expressed the resiliency of the Virginia Tech community, but they have found the strength to spell out their compassion for the shooter and their support for his family.
I can only imagine how deep someone would have to reach into their souls to find compassion in a situation like this. It’s easy for me because I didn’t get shot, nor do I know anyone connected to the deceased students and teachers.
The situation has made me ask hard questions, like could I find that same type of compassion in my own heart for the 19 men who led the Sept. 11 attacks? The short answer is no, because on that day, not only did I fear for my own life and the lives of people I love, but I also lost the innocence that comes from never having seen one’s own country — and one’s own city — under attack from a foreign power.
But forgiveness and compassion in a situation like this are important to the human condition. I have to look to the example of His Holiness the Dalai Lama, a man who could only watch as a foreign army slaughtered his people, desecrated his religion and shattered Tibetan culture. When the Dalai Lama says today that he harbors no ill feelings toward the Chinese government, I believe it. But what a task. I don’t know that I could ever find that much compassion within my own soul.
The people at Virginia Tech who have found room in their hearts for anything except hate toward Seung-Hui Cho are to be commended. They are brave, strong people who have the potential to change the world.