Monday, August 30, 2010

Killing at Columbine. Why?

In 1999, when I first heard the news about Columbine I thought immediately about the movie, “Heathers” and how disappointed I was, watching that 1988 movie, that Christian Slater’s character failed in his attempt to bomb his high school. No doubt my “savagery” is a consequence of my religious and patriotic upbringing; consider: the Wages of Sin is Death, or the Sins of the Fathers shall be visited upon their Children, or Death before Dishonor!.

On my first day in junior high school, VJHS, in 1955 I observed a trio of thugs – officially, “students” – run the hand of a fourth student into a bandsaw in a woodshop. That set a tone.

Until I graduated to high school I and my buddies paid a nickel a day each to the same thugs just to sit in the lunchroom. After every gym class we ran a gauntlet of wet towels coming out of the showers. The weaker, unaffiliated, among us were made to perform fellatio. Stories abounded of gang rapes, broken fingers and worse used to remind us who really was in charge. (Luckily I had “connections” because I helped members of other gangs cheat on exams. I was generally left alone.) Many of our teachers treated our in-house hoodlums with deference. That set a tone.

While all this nastiness was happening the teachers “never saw or knew anything about it;” even those who were standing by when it happened. The principal told me years later that VJHS had been “a wonderful educational experience.” Many of the teachers from VJHS rose to become major administrators in the system. Such were the good old days before American education became “watered down.” (Today the official story is that even though the schools have deteriorated both in academics and safety, things have gotten better!)

What the killers at Columbine had was access to heavy weapons. At VJHS all we had was shanks and zipguns and an often forlorn hope for a better future. Patience and suffering were the strategies that, luckily, helped us escape. But as a teenager, an AK47 would have been more than a temptation. Gimme that Ol’ Time Religion!

To examine these issues further, see Bad Apples or Sour Pickles? 
Fundamental Attribution Error and the Columbine Massacre


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