What happened at Virginia Tech was madness, no doubt about it. Many innocent and promising lives were lost. All due to one mad man, right? Although the quick and obvious answer is yes, I believe to truly answer the question, we need to think more deeply.
What the guy did was horrible, disgusting, absolutely unjustifiable and indefensible. However, what I'm disappointed about is the little of the correct attention that is being given, especially by the American media, to how he grew up - how he was chastised by his peers; how he was laughed for his shyness (how ridiculous was this?); how he was told to "go back to China" when he wasn't even from there (how racist was this?). Why are people so mean?
Very little attention is given to the years of negative mental buildup that apparently drove this individual to do something so horrendous. The obvious discussion has been that he was mentally unstable. That's a "no-brainer" - he definitely had pent-up issues.
But, what if the society he encountered was a little nicer to him? What if they embraced him as someone different and a little outside of the norm (being quiet and shy is not a crime)? My gut says that had Cho Seung Hui been surrounded by a more loving society, he would not have slid so much outside of the norm as to do what he did.
The problem, I suppose, is that "society" is made up of many preconceived individual notions handed down from respective generations, which makes it very difficult to simply ask society "to be nicer" to someone even though that someone is "strange" or "too quiet" or "foreign" by that society's standards.
I would argue that the pain that a particular society has inflicted on this guy has in turn been inflicted back onto that society. People make the argument that it was only a "perceived" pain, as if it was only his delusional view of being wronged. I would put forth that pain is only ever perceived by the person being inflicted upon. Pain is always "perceived pain". He obviously felt the pain. And probably for years, he felt the pain. Unfortunately, he reacted to the pain in a tremendously violent way.
Let's all look around us. Is there that one little kid in your sphere of influence, who seems a "little outside of the norm" who is being chastised by his/her peers? We can change that kid's life by embracing his/her differences. We can explain to his/her peers, if we have the power to, that such chastising of someone a little different is wrong. We have to explain to the kid in question that he is loved and that the mean things people say are not normal. We have to lead all kids in a positive direction.
I'm not saying such a kid will necessarily turn out to be a violent murderer, but problems manifest themselves in other ways - some more obvious and obviously some more subtle. The point is that if we can just step outside of the box and be nicer than normal, we will thank ourselves in the future.