Friday, July 27, 2007

School, violence, and choice

Some things just defy reason. I get reminded of that every day. But there are few times that it strikes me as this hard to understand.

You see, a couple weeks ago, the high school I graduated from apparently came close to having a Columbine-style massacre. Two boys were arrested for their role in this plot that was still not yet ready-to-go. From what has been said in the press, the main plotter apparently didn't have life going so well. The profile that's developing for those who do these sort of things -- God that's scary, that there's enough of them to make a profile -- says that they're socially abused, physically beaten, isolated from their parents and other students, and show signs of instability. Thus they become angry, drawn to violence, despondent about their future, wanting to grab attention in a definitive and unforgettable way. (The Columbine killers did that, for sure.)

The thing I don't understand is, they were me. What did they get that I didn't have in spades? Tauntings. Beatings. Countless concussions. Set-ups. Pranks on me that were done so often and so unimaginatively I eventually became bored with them, in a "ho-hum, it's Tuesday, when my shoes go into the gym rafters" kind of way. For my years in elementary into special-ed and through 11th grade, hardly a day went by without some sort of humiliation. I acted out, sometimes with temper outbursts, sometimes by running and hiding. I was usually alone, and I couldn't get a girlfriend to save my life -- which it full well might have, in the state I was in. And the school staff didn't do right by me either -- I never once made up anything, but I was treated as if I was a grand story-teller. And home life wasn't a prize either. And it's not like there were no very visible examples of violence in a violent world : the Six-Day War, the race riots, Kennedy, King, the skyjackings, Munich.

So, why was it that I never thought to do harm to people? Even those who beat or humiliated me? Why was I so intensely focused on getting through to them, why did I care so much, that the frustration and hurt of their unlove would cause me to act out? Why couldn't I just tell them all to go roast in hell? Why couldn't I hate, or even not care, even for a moment?

And, most importantly, why can these budding murderers hate when I couldn't? What gives them that bitter edge, that cynicism, that screw-you-all spit-in-your-face -ness that would even let the thought cross their minds?

I don't understand. I want to understand, because maybe that will uncover the clues to this murderous mystery, and maybe that will tell me a lot about myself. But I get this nagging feeling that I'll never know, that it will always be something to wonder about, at times like this.

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