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Fri Jan 11, 2013, 03:05 PM

 

Why we keep having school shootings [View all]

Another week, another school shooting. And once again it's the same refrain that we're all too tone deaf to hear.

According to Daniel Politi in Slate:

Officials in the small Kern County community, around 120 miles northwest of Los Angeles, are investigating reports that the boy had a hit list of students he felt had bullied him that he had compiled last year, reports the Bakersfield Californian. “He had intended targets. There's no question,” Kern County Sheriff Donny Youngblood said.

Same old story. A bullied kid finally reaches the breaking point and, feeling he has no recourse, seeks to take revenge upon his attackers.

And how do we as a country respond? We villainize the victim of the original crime and lionize the aggressors.

It doesn't start at the shooting phase, though. It starts a lot sooner. If a kid fights back against bullies with his fists then our "zero tolerance" policies guarantee that the victim will be the one who pays worse than the bullies who seek to destroy his life. Stand up for yourself with administrators and you're just making yourself a bigger target for the bullies. You dig yourself deeper into the lower castes of the school, which makes you an even more attractive target for abuse.

Pretty soon, a kid feels he has no way out. I touched on this when I wrote A Funny Thing Happened on the Way to Columbine, as expressed by my narrator, Jake:

Let me get one thing clear: if you have never thought about shooting up your school, you have never been a teenager, and anyone who says they don’t know what would drive a kid to doing it is either incredibly dense or a horrible liar.

The teenage years are incredibly hard on kids, with pressure from within and pressure from outside, and when you add in the fact that the modern high school is the best science project anyone could have ever dreamed up to study social cannibalism, no one should really be surprised when kids’ minds burst like firecrackers tossed into a barbecue pit. Honestly, I consider the simple fact that more kids don’t take up arms against the seas of troubles that threaten to drown them a testament to self-restraint.

When you’re a kid, everything is the most important thing that has ever happened, and every insult is the straw that broke the camel’s back. Sure, you can get over it pretty quickly if you try, but in those minutes right after the incident, it can truly seem like your world is ending unless you do something drastic.
Now, imagine that these last straws are being dumped on your already loaded down with a book bag back, one each second, every second of every day. Social stratification pushing down upon your helpless body with tons of pressure. Pressure to conform, to belong, and to behave just like everybody else. Then factor in the incessant push to excel from the parental units, which they make sure is scratching away at you constantly like a rabid hamster stuffed under your baseball cap, and tell me you wouldn’t feel the need to go batshit from time to time.

It’s supposed to be the same for the jocks and the cheerleaders, and the other “popular” types, but unless you’re one of them, you’ll never understand how the hell it can be. When someone is dumping a truck full of manure on top of you, you don’t stop to contemplate whether he’s worried about how he’s going to make the mortgage payment next month, you concentrate on trying to get him to stop smothering you in shit.

And what compounds this problem is the way we as a culture react when a victim finally fights back. Again, from my narrator:

“For the record, guys, I’m with Mick part of the way on this. I have no problem seeing the assholes that got away with beating up Topher pay, and pay through the nose. I don’t think I’d mind seeing any and all of the other jocks get it, either. But there’s one important thing that we’re forgetting.” I paused for a second, cleared my throat, and fought the effort by my stomach to push some bile up into my mouth to shut me up. Like Mick and Topher, and probably Whitey, I was mad. Really mad, and I had to force the logical side of my brain to take control. “And that’s one simple fact: if there’s one problem with school shootings, other than the obvious carnage related difficulties, of course, it’s that people never seem to learn the lesson.”

I stopped again, and looked over the three of them. Topher was glaring even worse than he had been during Mick’s screed. Whitey looked intrigued, as if he guessed where I was going. Mick just crossed his arms and defiantly prodded me. “Go on.”

“By all rights, Columbine should have gotten the message across loud and clear to kids across the country: don’t fuck with the wrong people or you will end up dead. It didn’t, though, and neither did the killings that came later, because people love victims. Because a couple of kids who were sick of being kicked around killed their oppressors, they wound up making themselves into the bad guys, and made the bad guys into victims in everyone’s eyes. People were too overcome with grief over the senseless bloodshed to think about what had driven the two shooters to do what they did. And for those jocks, having their blood spilled wound up washing away their sins as far as everyone was concerned. Don’t think about what they were really like, turn them into perfect little angels in everyone’s eyes. And, personally, I am not really in favor of giving the world of jocks any new martyrs.”

If we started portraying these "victims" of shootings like the monsters they were, instead of pretending that they were harmless little lambs, then maybe some other bullies might start getting the message. Maybe administrators would start taking bullying seriously. Maybe we'd start attacking the problem with school violence at its root.

Zero tolerance for bullies, not for those that fight back. Expel the bullies. Protect the victims. Don't tolerate the Social Darwinism that goes on in the hallways.

Until you treat the disease, the symptoms will keep recurring. And far too many people are blind to what the real disease is.

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Pab Sungenis Jan 2013 OP
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