After my article on school shootings, I immediately wanted to do more, although it was relatively hard work, just because it’s not so easy to find helpful information. But I really want to dig deeper into this and find out more, find similar threads and patterns and ways the media deals with this. So, today, three more examples, all from 2006.
In North Carolina, a 19-year-old killed his father and then went to his school and shot at people, without killing anyone else. Before his attack, he wrote an email to the principal of Columbine because he wanted people to remember it. The article states he was obsessed with the Columbine shooting and other school shootings and I’ve learned that this is true for many school shooters. It is known that Columbine, although not the first school shooting by far (I’ll get to older ones eventually), was very inspirational for other teenagers. I think most people know that fascination with killings and shootings or other stories about death and murder, but how must you feel to be inspired by it and see them as heroes. You can only see those shooters as heroes if you identify with them (or the image you created of them) as victims of this society, as victims of school. You identify with their anger and suddenly it seems reasonable to do the same. They got heard after all, so why wouldn’t you try the same? Imagine how not heard and unimportant you must feel to the people around you to consider this.
In Wisconsin a 15-year-old student shot and killed the school principal after he had tried to wrestle the gun away from the boy. The shooter had been abused by his father for years, insulted, punished. He describes himself this way: “My home life was a prison. A nightmare. Can you imagine being a kid and hating, fearing, your parents, your home? My dad was charged, then let go on abuse. The community and family knew he and my adopt[ive] mom beat me and tortured me.... They all knew. The school and social services and family.” There’s more in the article, also about bullying in school, how no one helped him, how he got angry at everyone for leaving him alone with all of those problems. While there might be some extremes to his case, some aspects are known to most students and teenagers. We often accept this as a normal part of growing up, but just add some of these aspects and you get more frustration than a teenager can endure, looking for ways to release it. We have to stop thinking that feeling misunderstood, alone, guilty, abandoned and unloved is normal for humans, it’s just normal for our society.
And then there is the 16-year-old boy in Pennsylvania who shot himself in the hallway at his high school. Although the title of the article and a couple of sentences deal with the motive, mainly that he was desperate that because of his bad grades he’d lose some privileges like being a fireman, most of the article talks about safety issues, metal detectors and how everyone reacted. It’s the common reaction for us, to try to minimize the damage of a shooting or suicide, but not looking at the origins. Again, imagine how strongly you must feel about your grades to kill yourself, to end your life over it? Those stupid numbers that say nothing about you ruin kids’ lives every day and we continue to pretend that they are the only logical form of evaluation. It’s reckless, really, and it doesn’t teach you anything about standards but only pressure.
And in all of those cases pressure and expectations increased an inner conflict and tension which to them could only be followed through by shooting a gun. Those are just the extreme cases. Think of all the other kids and what they do to themselves because they feel alone and anxious. Listen to them because they are willing to talk.