I’m always fascinated (not in a positive way) by school shootings, not so much because of gun control issues (that’s a given, I guess), but because I can’t help but wonder how terrible living in our culture one must feel to decide to kill others. Especially young people. You can’t explain it away with psychological disorders or video games because it happens too often and the perpetrators are too different to allow simple categorization. All of them have one thing in common (and this includes people who have been doing this decades ago), they live in this society, in this culture. The 14-year-old boy who started shooting in the school cafeteria in Washington on Friday is no different. He is different from other shooters and I wonder if that’s a reason that this shooting is not as publicized in the media as others.
Right from the start this shooting didn’t fit into the mold of other shootings. The shooter was very young, he appeared to be very popular, he had Native American origins, living on a reservation and he knew his victims, shooting mostly at his best friends. If you look at the media coverage, you notice that it’s not considered high profile news. The New York Times website has it only somewhere under “more news” today and only because another victim has died. Ebola panic is more important here. Fox News has it more prominently but strangely focus on the shooter’s “tribe.” It’s not totally forgotten (yet), but it is also not a big headline.
The New York Times has an interesting article titled “Tangled Portrait of a Student Emerges” emphasizing the fact that he doesn’t fit the normal profile that we are used to as “he was not a loner or a known misanthrope – far from it.” There are speculations about a break-up and some racism, but you can feel that the authors try really hard to provide those easy answers we crave. “Oh, it was because of his girlfriend!” But no one simply goes on a rampage because of heartache. Especially if you consider this overly detailed list at Wikipedia that lists this shooting as the 38th this year! This year! And we still stumble around and hope it’s just a misguided teenager having romance issues. (This list really boggles my mind and maybe should be topic of another post in the future). We don't have to think about inherent flaws in our culture. Or about what school does to our kids.
In a Christian Science Monitor article, the search for answers goes a little bit further. It argues that although the shooter came from a “successful” tribe (which is a weird description), that coming from another culture adds stress to a teenager’s life. The article doesn’t really delve into that, but it’s true. In Native American culture, such stress only occurs because of the influence of our culture.
I’m not arguing that I know why those kids were shot, but I think we need to stop looking for those easy answers, but we also should avoid using the “we have no explanation for this/there are no answers”-path. There are no easy answers, but there answers if we dare to look for them. They are surely not easy to find but as long as we pretend the motives are superficial and ignore the underlying issues, we will just have to go through all of this again the next time it happens.