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Home / Meta / Rants / Columbine, Let's Face Facts, Shall We?

I know I should probably get over this but it's sticking in my craw so badly I can't help it.

First - a disclaimer. The intent of this rant is not to belittle the shooting at Columbine. In fact if anyone knows me they know I consider that shooting anything but something trivial. And, in the spirit of the typical requirement to give one's credentials before being allowed to gripe about anything allow me to say that I live in Jefferson County, my roommate and spiritual sister went to Columbine (class of 84), I've gone to this year's Columbine community reunion, my web design company is donating space to Columbine alumni to help put up an online memorial, I've written articles to help educate people about Columbine and I'm doing what I can to help with the local recovery work.

So to anyone who would say I don't take this seriously, up yours.

That being said, I do feel there are certain hard truths about Columbine that people are willfully avoiding. I'm going to list them here because I know it's the only place I'll have a captive audience.

Cassie Is Not A Martyr

For those of you who have been living under a rock, allow me to introduce Cassie the Columbine Martyr. God help this poor girl. Her life has been turned into such a mockery that I have no idea how her soul is getting any peace.

Here's the basic scoop: Cassie was a teenager who went through some rough times and, if you believe some of the reports, even wrote about how she wanted to kill her parents and even - gasp/swoon - experimented with Witchcraft. However, with the Lord's help, Cassie became Born Again. Not too long after this Dylan and Eric went on their little rampage and, according to reports, asked Cassie if she believed in God. She said yes and they shot her dead. Ergo, she's a martyr.

Let's start this one off with the very first news flash: Cassie would have died no matter what she said. Ok? Can we make that even more simple? If she had said "no" she'd still be dead. Someone is a martyr only if their profession of faith is what kills them. Cassie died for one reason and one reason only: she was on the other end of the gun. Dylan and Eric did not give a rat's ass what her faith was. At best all they were doing was trying to give off a good one-liner (and, in fact, there are reports which claim after she said "Yes" the response was "What for?" before shooting her).

Now that we've got the basics, let's talk about what happened next.

First off you've got Cassie's family, particularly her mother who will be the author of a book titled - you guessed it - She Said "Yes". The idea is that the book will now be an inspiration to tons of little Christian kids everywhere and will quite possibly be turned into a movie of the week.

I have no idea who's idea it was to do this. I can't believe it would really be her family. I've got enough faith in the inherent goodness of humanity (and just enough of a belief in its inherent sliminess) to believe that what's really going on is you've got one opportunistic person who's talking into this woman's ear and convincing her that the way to give Cassie's death meaning is to do all of this. I honestly cannot believe that the girl's own mother would use her death as a marketing opportunity for God. Mind you, it's possible, but thinking that Cassie's mom is doing this just as a coping mechanism helps me sleep at night so I'm gonna stick with it until proven otherwise.

If that's the case, though, I feel sorry for her mother. I especially feel sorry for the moment when the book's done and the movie's come and gone and all the publicity has left her and all she's left with is the realization that absolutely none of that brought her daughter back from the dead. That's gonna be a hard moment for her.

I don't feel sorry for those people who are making Cassie into the Evangelical symbol of The Way, though. For starters whoever thought up the whole book/movie/marketing concept should rot in Hell. I will then add on to this list anyone who's taking Cassie's death as an excuse to make up a T-shirt, button, sticker, web page or anything else which lets us know that Cassie is The One.

Look, I'm sure she was a sweet girl. And God knows that as a Roman Catholic I've got nothing against Jesus Christ (I'm rather fond of him, in fact). But using this girl's death in this opportunistic, vulture-like manner is utterly sickening. Hey, if you truly believe she was a martyr and therefore can find in her inspiration for your own Faith, fine and more power to you. But keep the merchandise to yourself.

Add on top of that I've got a real problem with all of the Evangelicals who are saying that we should be "true to ourselves like Cassie was". Somehow I really doubt that if I took that pledge they'd like it if they found out that my truth involves, amongst other things, an active participation in Witchcraft and homosexuality. Ditto if I told them I were Jewish or even an atheist.

Call it a hunch.

On a similar note, allow me to also condemn anybody who holds Cassie up as having a better death than anyone else who died in Columbine that day. How dare anyone even imply that? 13 people died thanks to Dylan and Eric. How many of these Cassie-believers ever wondered if other people in that group of 13 believed in God? How many of them would have cared if someone answered "Yes" to the question of "Do you believe in God?" but meant the Jewish God? Or Buddha? Or the Earth Mother? Would you have considered them martyrs too?

Like I said, I feel sorry for Cassie. I can't imagine this is what she wanted out of her life. Quite frankly I don't think it's what she wanted out of her death either. Poor kid.

Addendum: During the police investigation it was later found out that, in truth, Cassie hadn't said yes. Kids who were in the library at the time told the cops pointed out that the person who had been asked had been nowhere near the table Cassie was hiding under. The girl who was asked, and who did admit to the truth of this once cops asked her about it, is alive and well and went on to college the next semester. I've got to admit, sad as it is, this information did put a happy spot in my heart.

Dylan and Eric Were Two Fucked Up Kids

There's a great deal of wondering about what made Dylan and Eric do what they do. Guys, the answer to this is very simple: they were assholes. It's not the media's fault, or Manson's, or Pokemon's, or the fact that the local 7-11 ran out of cherry Slurpees that day. Dylan and Eric just did not give a fuck about hurting and killing other people. Period, end of story.

I know it's tempting to look for a cause. We all want a cause. We want someone to blame and point to and say that if such-and-such had occured, none of this would have happened. Folks, this isn't going to work. I know we all want a reason why Dylan and Eric were so fucked up. We want to know why they crossed over that line from "generically pissed off" to "literally homicidal" because then we think we can keep it from happening again.

There's just one problem with this: Even if we knew it wouldn't stop this from happening again.

No two people are alike. No two psyche's are alike. If people all worked on the same stimulus/effect pattern my degree in psychology would have been a lot easier to get and, moreover, we'd finally have the proof we need to show that Freud didn't know what he was talking about. If Dylan and Eric came back from the dead right now and told us all, in detailed instructions, why they did what they did -

Well, at the risk of being crass, let me put it this way: did blaming violence in the movies stop that day trader from killing people in Atlanta?

Yeah, didn't think so.

Folks, shit happens. This is a fundamental rule of life. God (Buddha/Diana/etc.) knows that we'd all love to be able to wake up, go to work/school, hang out with friends, come home and go to bed without ever having to worry about what's going to happen but the reality is this just isn't true. The truth of the matter is some asshole is always going to be able to break into your house, shoot you at the workplace, rape you in a movie theater parking lot or, while you were gone, set your house on fire. It's not happy, it's not thrilling but it's true. Shit Happens.

(And I do have to admit, on a related note, that I can greatly sympathize with those inner-city kids who are angry that violence in the schools is only an issue now because it happened in a "white, affluent neighborhood". You're absolutely right. You were going to school with metal detectors and clear backpacks long before all of this and we all should have tried harder to help you out. )

Stop Pretending You Know How To Fix It

Finally we get all of the adults who want to put a band-aid on it and make it all better. And here where my true fear of humanity sets in. You've probably already read my other Columbine rant so I won't repeat myself on the "after Columbine" people. However I've got a new fear now which basically boils down to "people who don't know what they're talking about but were somehow given the power to make changes."

My latest nightmare comes from the local Columbine community. Apparently there's a Columbine Community Task Force of some sort which has been meeting to try to come up with solutions for the problem. What were some of the solutions? Some were ok - an anonymous tip line for kids in trouble, a few dress code changes just for the Hell of it - but some were truly scary. The worst of all was the suggestion that parents have the right to have access to all of the books their kids check out of both the school and the public libraries. Oh my God. Forget about civil liberties (because we all know children don't have any) (that was sarcasm, but sadly true), did any of these people think about the consequences of this?

For those of you who might not know let me fill you in: the number one place kids who are abused can find support and help is in their local library moreover the number one place kids who are gay or otherwise "different" can find support is their local library. Ask any librarian and they'll tell you - troubled kids will clean the shelves of the library. Books with the heaviest rotation are always about abuse or similar subjects. If you make parents able to find out what their kids are checking out I can guarantee that you will cut off the major source of help for abused and troubled kids everywhere. How is a boy who's curious about homosexuality going to get his hands on the right book if dear ol' Dad will find out about it? How can an abused girl read about others like her if Mom's going to find out? I'll tell you: they won't.

Fine, you may say, nobody says these kids have to check the books out. Why can't they just read them in the library and leave them there?

Hey, no problem. They certainly can. Which is why you just pointed out the flaw in this system anyway: anybody can read any book in the library without someone else finding out. So why bother with this check system in the first place?

I could go on about this (and very well might in another rant) but you get my drift: limiting information is not the way to solve the problem. Likewise the availablity of information, certain kinds of music, certain religious beliefs (or lack therein), etc. etc. etc. aren't the problem either. Like I said, some people are just fucked up and there's nothing you can do about it.

What my real point is, though, is that the people who are coming up with these suggestions are doing so with remarkable lack of input from anyone else. The group that's suggesting the library idea has never once made a point of letting the rest of us know how we can give our opinions of the suggestions they're coming up with. Or, for that matter, how can can protest (or support) anything they say once it gets reported to the officials in charge of this. I'm sure there's a meeting or something that's involved but I've never been told of the time (and believe me, I've been scouring the newspaper). Neither have I been told which officials are involved so I can write to them with my viewpoints. These folks just got on the task force and there's nothing I can do about it.

Moreover I'm seeing more and more reports now of kids who are actually still in high school saying that nobody's talking to them either. It's great that people want to help, they say, but nobody has asked them what would be useful. It's been nothing but adults making decisions on behalf of the kids without having any idea of the reality of things. The best example of this is the famous "10 Commandments in every school" faction, who has yet to realize that most kids, upon seeing that, are going to make fun of it and probably use a marker to toss in a few "commandments" of their own.

So that's the end of my rant. Stop assuming, use your brain and maybe that way things will go a little more smoothly.

Me? I'm writing to the paper to see if they can tell me more about the task force.

Sigh

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