Tuesday, April 17, 2007

'Ismael Ax' - Cho Seung-Hui's scrawl

Scrawled on Cho Seung-Hui's arm was a cryptic phrase: Ismael-Ax:

"Ismael-Ax" could refer to God's request that Abraham kill his own son, before God intervenes on the boy's behalf. In the Judao-Christian tradition, the son is Isaac, the father of the Jewish people. Islamic texts hold that the subject is his older half-brother Ismail. In some versions, of the story the instrument is a knife, and in others it is an axe...

A Hot Air reader has an interesting conjecture regarding the phrase, noting that the killer was an English major:

You probably already know this, but in James Fennimore [sic] Cooper’s story “The Prairie,” the settler Ishmael Bush, who is attempting to escape from civilization, sets out across the prairie with two key tools, a gun and an axe. Each has a symbolic meaning. The axe — which can either kill or provide shelter — stands for both creation and destruction. Given that the VT killer was an English major, might this be the likely meaning of the words on his arm? Just my two cents.

There might be something to this suggestion. In History and Mythology in The Prairie, the University of Copenhagen's Henning Goldbæk describes the protagonist:

...there is the Squatter, Ishmael Bush, who is brutal, stupid, representing the border between nature and civilization, or the first step of civilization. He seems to be the most interesting character in the book, because he represents almost all phases in the book. He has left civilization, he lives an almost mythic life on the prairie, but at the end of the novel he returns to civilization...

The Squatter is interesting, because he is the person, who casts a shadow before. He lives "on the skirts of society...", he is not religious, and the only learning he respects, is "that of the leech." He has no respect for nature, he fells any tree he wants around him, because he is "above" the law.

But what is the law? Ishmael Bush is above the law...

Any linkages between "the Squatter" and the Virginia Tech mass-murderer are rank speculation, to be sure, but interesting nonetheless.

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