Monday, April 20, 2009

Columbine Plus Ten

Plenty of media outlets again today will do what the media always does…re-hash a tragedy to milk more emotion out of it, and try to help us “make sense” of the acts of two deeply disturbed young men. You can’t make sense of it. The news dweebs will also call today’s tenth anniversary of the tragedy the “ten-year anniversary”, displaying a lack of knowledge of proper form to go along with their penchant for indulging in wretched emotional excess.

The cloyingly emotional reports began Sunday morning on seemingly all the news networks and even ESPN. ABC’s Sunday morning show featured an interview with one of the survivors, who broke down completely. Rather than tastefully edit the interview, the producers let the whole thing run, so we didn’t miss one second of the young woman suffering in total emotional disarray.
You can analyze the acts of Klebold and Harris leading up to the tragic day, and second-guess whether or not enough signs were there that somebody should have done something. But all the Monday-morning quarterbacking in the world won’t make sense of it.

Ten years later, there’s still huge disagreement about the two young men. Five years ago, the FBI and some psychiatrists said Harris was a psychopath, and Klebold was a depressive. More recently another psychiatrist said their actions were a result of their being deprived of video games because of their behavior, and that they turned the rage they’d expended on “Doom” into a very real and deadly plan to kill scores of students at their high school.

There were conferences held on bullying, and a cottage industry of new “anti-bullying” consultancies arose. There was talk of more gun laws. There was finger-pointing at Jefferson County Colorado authorities. Much was made of the (apparent coincidence) that the attack happened on Hitler’s birthday, but later it was fairly well established that the attack was supposed to happen the day before…the 19th…to coincide with the Oklahoma City bombing and the Branch Davidian conflagration in Waco. Apparently, a delay in making the propane-tank bombs was the reason the massacre happened the next day.

It was also the beginning of “zero tolerance” policies regarding “weapons” or “threatening behavior” in schools, which was taken to such an extreme in many communities, like Madison, that no one wants to use the phrase any more. Zero tolerance has often been a substitute for zero judgment.
It’s like the Weston school shooting three years ago, which claimed the life of Principal John Klang. We’ll never “make sense of it” because the young man who came to school with guns that day was obviously another deeply disturbed young man.

And, to no one’s surprise, questions of “how could this have happened here” were asked in Cazenovia in 2006, just as they were in Columbine in 1999. Three years later…and ten years later…we still really don’t know.

And probably never will.

1 comment:

  1. I didn't see any of the "10 year anniversary" coverage of the Columbine shootings. I didn't wish to, either. This annual review of a senseless tragedy seems to me like ripping off a bandage from a wound to see if it's healed yet.

    "Healing" after a spectacular tragedy is, essentially, a spectator sport now. Your garden variety tragedies -- such as cancer deaths, hunting accidents, and drunk driving fatalities -- are so typical as to be mundane; there's no cause to revisit the families year after year to gauge their degree of coping.

    But spectacular tragedies -- such as Columbine, the Virginia Tech massacre (on April 16th, as it happens) -- have become virtual Hallmark holidays for the news media.

    The anniversary of the Oklahoma City bombing itself is still observed. That tragedy was of a different kind than Columbine: 168 people killed almost instantly rather than one-by-one.

    I don't hear about Waco memorials, though. Maybe it was because our righteous government went in with tanks after, I won't say it. The memorial we need there is a memorial for the death of reason.

    Perhaps there's a lingering sense of "Couldn't something have been done while Klebold and Harris were on their rampage?" People may remember that another college massacre in 2002 was averted because of the actions of two students at the Appalachian School of Law who had guns in their cars. Granted, three people were killed by the shooter, including the dean, but lots more were saved because of those two gun-savvy students.

    But perhaps not. The overriding popular remedy is more gun control. Guns should be outlawed, all guns. That oughta do the trick, eh?

    Steve Erbach
    Neenah, WI