Sentinel Poetry (Online) #53 ISSN 1479-425X


Editor-in-Chief: Amatoritsero Ede

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Offspring of Betrayal


So kick the old men from their places

and let the dark, cold nights of city streets

end each dawn when someone new

is betrayed into the world.

                - Gary Beck


Not long after Sentinel Poetry Online's Editor-in-Chief, Amatorisero Ede, asked me to Guest-edit the May 2007 issue, Cho Seung-Hui shot 32 people at Virginia Tech, before killing himself. I decided back then that I would do a short editorial based on that bloody event. Incidentally, the piece of art that kept going over and over in my head was 'We need God in America again' - a song by Carman from the album The Standard. The section of the song that played over in my mind was;


In his farewell address, Washington said "you can't have national morality apart from religious principle," and its true. Because now we have nearly 150,000 kids carrying guns through these war zones that we call public schools.



In the body of that song, Carman argues that God and religion are needed to keep the citizens, especially the impressionable young on the straight and narrow path. One might ask today,  what God and what religion? The thrust of Carman's overall  argument is that the citizens of America have been betrayed by their leaders who stripped schools of holy books and prayers. That, however is only a part of the overall culture of betrayal, not just in America, but the world over.


It was particularly irritating to read that President George Bush summed up the fates of Cho's victims as, "They were simply in the wrong place at the wrong time."


The mass killer Cho was a betrayed man. A mentally-ill man who was not sufficiently cared for. Cho's victims were also betrayed by the American law enforcement, legal and medical systems that ought to have prevented the Virginia Tech massacre. In a Time magazine report 'Darkness Falls' (April 30, 2007), Nancy Gibbs writes about Cho's demons before the attack:


Police requested a temporary detention order, and Cho was evaluated at a psychiatric facility, Carilion St. Albans Behavioural Health Center in Radford, Va. Following that evaluation, a judge indicated on a court document that Cho "is mentally ill and in need of hospitalisation, and presents an imminent danger to self or others as a result of mental illness, or is so seriously mentally ill as to be substantially unable to care for self, and is incapable of volunteering or unwilling to volunteer for treatment." The amount of time Cho spent at the hospital remains a mystery.


The psychiatric evaluation was in 2005. Nearly 2 years later, Cho killed. What is really disturbing is that every time a major tragedy occurs, we learn later that there was some intelligence, or prior information that somebody did not act upon. In Britain, a major act of betrayal is about to occur. Despite threats to him personally, Prince Harry and his men are definitely going to Iraq. Nobody wishes him ill, but would it not be a betrayal of the young man and his men if they meet with some misfortune in Iraq having been pre-warned?


Now you ask, what have these to do with poetry? Well poets are always the ones to try to make sense of the insanity are they not? Thousands of poems have already been born as a result of Cho's mass murder of his colleagues. Just like they were written for the 9/11 attacks. These poems are the children of poets and must not be betrayed. To betray a poem is to lie to it or through it. To betray a poem is to keep it from being heard or read. To betray a poem is to allow it to be corrupted or lose its way. Death is the offspring of betrayal. We have seen it time and time again. I leave you this time with a charge to keep your eyes and ears open and to use your children - your poems - to contribute your quota into preventing any further betrayal of our fellow human beings. Enough of the deaths already. Enough.


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Nnorom Azuonye