Root Causes

It’s been almost two months since the school shootings in Colorado. I’ve listened to all the experts, read the articles, waded through the blame, and read through the feeble attempts to "heal" in newspapers and conversations.

Maybe it’s just the way I see things, but there are a lot of things that are just being missed in this whole tragedy.

The list of things that have been blamed for the shooting is longer than the list of failed TV shows from last year, and last year’s TV schedule was so bad it probably caused cancer in lab rats. The list has grown to the point where everyone with an axe to grind has decided that whatever they hate caused it.

Video games, gothic fashion, trench coats, bad families, teen cliques, violent movies, lack of prayer in school, lax gun laws, gun in schools, not enough guns in schools, not enough surveillance, Harold H. Myers was blamed but no one knew who he was so it was dropped, too much prying into people’s lives, too much emphasis on sports, Marilyn Manson, the internet, comic books, cults, lack of values, Duke Nukem, too much freedom for teenagers, and a partridge in a pear tree have all been named as co-conspirators. Why? Well, when something like this happens, we want to know what caused it. We much have our witches to burn to assuage our fears. There has to be a reason, right? There has to be a cause, and if we just ban the cause, the world will be safe and orderly again. Besides, there has to be a demon of some kind that snaked into these kids lives and made them do this because people are basically good, right?


No. To assign good and evil to the whole of humanity is simplistic, and takes the power of free will out of their hands. Besides, if we assign a reason and stomp that reason out of existence, what will we do the next time it shows up. Admit we were wrong? In the 50’s juvenile delinquency was traced back to comic books. Now, comic books are gone and so are street gangs, right?

Damn. Another fine cause proven false. They’ll keep banning things until the find out why teenagers join gangs, because it can’t be their fault. Something MAKES them do it, right?

If you buy into that wrongheaded line of thinking, it absolves the person making the decision from his action. "Well, it’s not his fault, something outside of him made him do it." No. It IS that person’s fault. Whether you blame a bad upbringing from the left, or demonic influences from Hollywood on the right, you’re giving the person a Community Chest card to move ahead to "Go," collect their $200, and not take responsibility from their actions. As much as my friends on the right say they believe in that, they show their true colors when they want to punish movies for a murder done by two kids who had as much power in Hollywood as I do, sitting on the couch in my pajamas, flipping through channels at the speed of sound on my satellite dish.

Did the video game Doom cause it? Not likely. There have been roughly 20 million copies of Doom put onto computer hard drives since it came out, and not even on tenth of 1 % of the people who play it have shot up their school.

In statistics, that below any margin of error. Violent TV? Same thing. Bad parenting? When one of the two kids were in front of a judge, the Judge noted in the file that the father showed up for the court hearing, and fathers never show up for the court hearing. From all reports, the parents were at least tangentially involved in these two kids lives, which is more than most parents can claim. Most parents raise their children with a form of benign neglect, because they have their own lives to try and deal with. But that’s a different Droning, isn’t it? The Internet? Books? Easy access to guns?

All of things are available to people all over America, but These two kids decided to take their anger that extra step that most of us stop at. The theory floated around that they were pushed too far in a school where the jocks ran things in a way-too-real version of "Lord Of The Flies." I believe it, since ALL High Schools have become a nightmarish version of conformity, and those who don" are target for those who do. They are set up that way to teach adolescents a very important lesson. Get along with those in power, or prepare to have your life be a living hell. Oh, and try not to get in their way either. Thanks.

Sometimes, things just happen, people snap, and there’s no rhyme or reason for it. Why do I think that these two outcasts finally decided that it was nobler to oppose their troubles and inner pain and by attacking their fellow students end them? I’ve been working in the treatment of Juveniles for 10 years, have conducted therapy sessions with hardened criminals who weren’t even 16 yet. I’ve studied mental illness, and am able to give a rough diagnosis after a single session. I have been in court giving my professional opinion on crimes committed by those clients I had spent hours working with. In my expert, enlightened, knowledgeable opinion, there’s really only one explanation.

They were fucked in the head.

It wasn’t because of what they watched, or listened to, or read, or anything outside of them that caused it. You can blame it on things in order to make it so you can sleep at night, full in the knowledge that You Won’t Let It Happen. Whatever you name as an outside cause falls apart when subject to the bright light of logic. I know that in something emotional like this, it’s hard to think logically, but we have to, no matter how much Tom Brokaw wants to make us cry by showing us the survivors and the victims’ parents.

Now, the news teams have moved on to the next ratings grabbing tragedy, and every so often we get the "how the community is healing" stories that show us that everything’s going to be all better. That way, when it happens again in a few months, we can all be shocked again, and talk about how this sort of thing never used to happen, and how we’ve got to control the horrible cause of it all. Burn the witches, ban the books, lock down the kids, and ask some higher power to make it all stop. Funny, that sort of thing hasn’t stopped it yet.

We continue to handle these tragedies the wrong way, and even though I know it won’t change anything, here is my list of ideas to combat this sort of thing.

1) If a person brings a gun somewhere where a gun isn’t supposed to be, they are charged with attempted murder and locked up. Hey, just because the NRA backs a wimpy version of this idea doesn’t make it a bad idea, but as with all of their ideas, they don’t go far enough.

2) Bill Bennett, shut the hell up.

3) Maybe teachers and administrators should kinda stop the hazing, beatings, ritualistic humiliations, and terrorism that we call High School before it gets to the point where Revenge of the Nerds is plays out with weapons fire. Maybe you aren’t paid to be guards, but you also aren’t paid to hide in the teacher’s lounge when the kid on the chess team is subjected to a gang initiation by the head of the football team because he looked at his girlfriend.

4) Bill Bennett, shut the hell up. I just want to make sure he heard me, because he’s usually using tragedies to sell his ghostwritten book that say that all of America’s problems are because we don’t do what he says.

5) When someone goes on a rampage, don’t give out the person’s name, history, method, style of dress, and website address. You know how when you watch a movie, they make the main character likeable and kinda normal so that you identify with them and think about what you would do if you were in that situation? Guess what, psychologically disturbed people do that too. "Gee, he hates sports, I hate sports, maybe I should do what he did!"

6) Quit blaming Marilyn Manson for everything. He’s a rock star ripping off Alice Cooper and he has yet to sell a million copies of any of his CDs. He’s not all that influential, or he’d be able to fill arenas instead of still having tickets available at civic centers.

7) Quit watching the round the clock new coverage of these things. CNN made more money off the two weeks after that shooting than they had sine the LAST high school shooting. If we don’t’ watch, they won’t cover it, and people will be forced to think up new ways to get attention.

8) If you are a parent, pay a little attention to your kids. If little Billy is staying up night out in the garage, buying a lot of gunpowder and weaponry, he just could be turning the riding lawn mower into a tank based on a blueprint he got from the A-Team official website, and you might want to sit down with him and ask why he wants to kill everyone in a 2 square mile radius. Or at least get him medicated enough that he can’t do it.

9) Stop looking to politicians to solve these problems. Politicians only care about their next campaign contribution, and the fact that the Senate voted down a bill that would have closed the loophole these two kids bought their guns through without even looking at it should show you that. You want a problem solved, start solving it, Skippy. The school’s not safe, howsabout you go there once in a while and help out, they’d love to have you there. If you see someone being bullied and harassed, step in and tell them to go home, and make sure they do. If your neighborhood is one of those where no one knows each other, and people feel isolated and alone, start talking to people. Well, talk to people other than me, because I don’t want to get to know you, and I like not knowing anyone where I live.

10) Stop believing in the bogeyman. Because the two kids killed themselves before they could tell us their side, we feel a deep burning need to assign blame. Someone must pay, and if the perps are dead, we’ll find another perp so that we may have our day in court, or we’ll chase down a cause like Inspector Javert. If the NRA can say that guns don’t kill people, people do, maybe we should start saying that for everything else that gets blamed and work on the damn people so that they Don’t Kill People. However, that would take some intervention, some mental health work and effort, so instead, we’ll blame violent movies, video games or the Witch d’jour, burn them at the stake, and rest secure in the knowledge that we solved the problem. At least until the next problem.

So, what have we learned from the Columbine tragedy? Nothing. Some people will use it to further their agendas, riding the bodies of the victims to political office, or for controls on things they don’t like. Most people will remember it as just another spectacle in they News-er-tainment cycle, and wait for the next thing to be shocked and appalled by.

But maybe, just maybe, someone in some high school somewhere will think, "You know, maybe this is a bad idea" before beating the crap out of a kid who doesn’t fit in, and save his own life, or the lives of other people like him.

Too bad I'm too damn cynical to believe that.

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