In many studies of these murderers, there is a common denominator – they were usually bullied and felt injustice, which simmered until it lashed out with an explosion of rage. They were profoundly alienated. One of the survivors of Columbine, Craig Scott, who was the brother of one of the first students to be murdered, Rachel Scott, travels around the country talking to students about compassion, care, speaking to the isolated and alienated. That means seeing the person who is different from us – whether culturally, or mentally, or psychologically, or in terms of class, race, gender – not as The Other, but as someone who is somewhat like us. Instead of saying “Nothing foreign is human to me” we learn to say “Nothing human is foreign to me.” We see some connection between their struggles and others – which usually is in degree, and in the action we take, but may not be so terribly different than our own moments of isolation and alienation. Craig believes, and has seen evidence, that some of these tragedies can be stopped through our recognition of alienation, and our determination to reach when we see it. Craig has become a friend of mine, and I have become quite convinced that he is right.
Then I read the other two.
Blake Fleetwood noted the same anniversary I remembered.
We have seen this particular brand of American poison many times before.
Today is the eighth anniversary of the Columbine Massacre.
Cho pays tribute in his video manifesto to Dylan Klebold and Eric Harris, who were outraged by fictional “preps.”
Like Cho, the two disturbed killers clearly gave off signs of alienation, paranoia, and dysfunctionality for months, if not years. They were tormented by the “jocks” and others at the school until they felt they had no choice but to react as they did.
Too often, American schools foster a culture of cliques and teasing isolation that torments millions of bullied children who have no place to turn. This culture of bullying peer conformity has led to a record number of suicides, murders, and psychological scars that never heal.
During my cab on the way to my partner’s 46th birthday party last night, Friday, April 20th, the driver turned to me and asked, “Why do you think that boy killed all those people?”
A bit surprised to be engaged on the topic, I replied, “Well, for starters, I think the fact that he could just walk into a store in Virginia and walk out with a gun has something to do with it.”
“NO!” the cabbie thundered back, making me jump a bit. “It is because of all the others. The ones filled with hate. The ones who mocked him and filled him with hate. They are the murderers.”
The cabbie had zeroed in on something about the school shootings tragedy that has been rarely mentioned in the wall-to-wall coverage that has dominated the airwaves this week: the fact that nearly every one of these tragedies has been perpetrated by boys who have been bullied and harassed.
Not any time soon, according to Norman Solomon, given our tendency of “Bowing to Our Own Violence”.
Everyone who isn’t deranged can agree that what happened on April 16, 2007, at the campus of Virginia Tech was an abomination. It came about because of an individual’s madness. We must reject it without the slightest equivocation. And we do.
But the media baseline is to glorify the U.S. military — yesterday, today and tomorrow — bringing so much bloodshed to Iraq. The social dynamics in our own midst, fueling the war effort, are spared tough scrutiny. We’re constantly encouraged to go along, avidly or passively.
Like I said before, we like bullies, as long as their our bullies and as long as they’re bullying someone else. In that context, we’re also encouraged to avoid thinking about what our actions or their consequences may create in others. Like the 70% of Iraqi children showing signs of PTSD, or these two boys from the previous post.
If or when we see them again, will we see the results of our actions — or even ourselves — in them?
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