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April 19, 2007

Eight Years Later, We're No Closer

Before the era of the Blog, my friends and family were the unfortunate recipients of many a mass email from me on my oh-so-important thoughts on the happenings of the day. Eight years ago was one such occurrence.

Following the Columbine mass killing, as I watched and read the media and analyst coverage, I became convinced that there was absolutely nothing being said about the true societal issues that were at the heart of that dark day. There were superficial attempts, to be sure--video games (which pale in comparison to today's much more realistic games) and guns were bandied about. The angst of being a disaffected and unpopular student in a modern, large high school was also covered. But, in my (then and now) opinion, nothing was really being discussed about how our modern society, with its so many dehumanizing aspects, could have been at the heart of actions of Harris and Klebold.

Did I know the right question or the right answer at the time or now? No. I only knew the markers that I thought then (and now) were (and are) important: Our society's dehumanizing aspects across a wide range of issues, our society's elevation of the material over the flesh and blood and spiritual, and our society's almost manic attempts to elevate the individualized (not just the individual but all things individualized) over all. The intersections of these issues, I thought (and think) must be the point at which we begin to think about such horror (to the extent we feel the ability to think about it at all).

To be sure, some of the issues that were being discussed then (and now) were indicators or evidence of the larger issues (why is it that we seem to "need" so many guns in this country; why is a goodly portion of our youth disaffected; what do these video games say about us as a society???). However, that the essence of our society (that more and more goods and services need to be produced and consumed on an always increasing basis and that the individual self is to be exalted above all others) may play a part was not (and is not now) discussed.

Pause, fast forward eight years (almost) to the day, and we have the same situation, with the facts altered to make it interesting (for the moment anyway, no doubt some aspect of Anna Nicole's death is out there waiting to grab the headlines again).

Once again, the same old debates are trotted out and the same old lines, sides, issues, etc. are drawn. Will we really have a discussion about what this is really all about or will we continue the "less filling" "tastes great" debate of eight years ago?

There is little hope for that, in my mind. However, this article by Sacha Zimmerman in the online edition of The New Republic, at least gives me a glimmer, as Ms. Zimmerman is asking the more transcendent questions.

Read the article, and then ponder for yourself, what do you want to be thinking about eight years from now?

Big Caveat: One thing I want to make clear is that the above should not be taken in any way as an attempt to excuse, justify or otherwise let Cho, Harris or Klebold off the hook. They were evil, very evil. They each are 100% responsible for their actions--Not society, not guns, not video games, not Ritalin, not mean rich kids. My only point is that we, as a society, need to understand the deeper undercurrents that are affecting our youth (and quite frankly our adults) and determine how we can change. But to be clear, there are no doubt thousands of disaffected kids out there who are subject to the same societal undercurrents and who do not wake up one day and shoot their classmates. They may bury themselves in drugs, booze, etc., but they don't kill others. Cho, Harris and Klebold don't get to hide behind these societal issues--they are responsible for their murders.

Posted by Mark at April 19, 2007 10:37 PM

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