Columbine Revisited

That last blog entry of mine (and the quote from the Creationist that spawned it) leads us right back to Columbine, a news event that weighed heavily on me through my last month of high school. (The uptik in murmurings on public education on this blog is due to reading through Gatto’s book… as well as a couple of news items.)

Now I can elaborate on the “Rorschach” Test aspect to the whole thing. It seems as though nobody ever discussed the violence known as Columbine — they discussed other items. (Oftentimes it seemed to take on the aspect of debating whether to abridge the First Amendement or the Second Amendment.)

Remember “The Trenchcoat Mafia”? They didn’t exist. Or, for all intents and purposes, they didn’t exist in 1999. They appeared in a group photograph in the 1998 yearbook, and that was just about the end of those guys. (I sort of assume it was mostly guys.) Kleebold and Harris were just two straggler-ons, incidental enough to the whole cliquish subset that they didn’t appear in that photograph. Thus… The Trenchcoat Mafia are completely innocent and have little or no bearing on any conversation regarding the Colubime Shooting Incident. It makes perfect sense how they permeated popular imagination: second hand from other high school students looking from the outside in on a batch of weird looking freaks. Translate this into news items, and everything is perverted from there on out.

This lead us to news items from throughout the nation’s schools about students expressing, in class discussions and elsewhere, guarded sympathies to the two killers. These kids were guilty of framing Kleebold and Harris into their own experience as alienated, bullied adolescents. Welcome “Jocks versus Nerds”. (or Goths. Or Whatever.)

Maybe this is for the best. It has lead to schools re-examining and looking at the issue of bullying, frequently and too easily dumped away and rationalized as a cynical social Darwinian exercise: “It’ll toughen them up. Prepare them for the harsh, real world.” (An attitude that seems to frequently lead to suicide, if nothing else.)

The other batch of news items I was reading through and scratching my head at at the time. Interviewing “jocks” (usually jocks, occasionally other “popular kids”) who now feel (a) vulnerable and (b) a bit more empathetic to the less popular, picked-on kids. The imprint on my mind was an article with a football player saying something along the lines of “And a friend pointed at a fellow student, saying ‘he’s the type who just might do something like this’, and I was like, (and as though this proves his virtue) I didn’t bother looking over at who he was pointing to.”

You do recall that these two killers pretty well shot indiscriminately? See… that’s what leads some fundamentalist Christians to believe they were Atheists shooting Christians! (And a fairly odd legend grew out for Christian Youth to snatch onto, the matry who said “yes” to the question of whether or not she was a Christian, and was gunned down anyway. Replete, annoyingly enough, with merchandising.)

Actually, they were trying to kill everyone in that school, but the explosive devises they wired up proved poorly connected. Beyond that, they planned to … hijack a plane, kill more people on the way to … I believe Washington, DC, but my memory is fading.

Which would’ve turned their more-deadly than usual school shooting into a bonafide murder spree. Which is what they wanted to accomplish. And which destroys what had been my impression of the two, which was still buried into the popular storyline of the events (and everybody’s adolescent expereience): A month away from graduation, and yet they lacked the perepective to realize THEY WERE A MONTH AWAY FROM GRADUATION. Nay… they had some perspective beyond a shallow high school corridor. Or, at least the more dominant and irredemibly sociopathic of the two (and I don’t remember which one was that one.)

Figure out why they were sociopaths (emotion-numbing drugs which help put them into a video-game mode… but, then again, there was a reason they were prescribed emotion-numbing drugs), but don’t alter the story into what it wasn’t.

I’m not sure what my point is in deconstructing away what was a moderately (though only moderately) overhyped news event that is fading away from the public conciousness, as all things do. Nor do I know how shedding it away to what looks like its real story guides us anywhere in the future. But, I never knew how to discuss Columbine (the last time I had any reason to was, really, the Spring of 2001 — which was about the ending of the mass media feeding off of various incidents) — due to the difference between what it was and what different people wanted it to be for various reasons.

We should ban video games, maybe?

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