The most insightful article I’ve read on the massacre at Columbine High School is one by Lloyd Darden, a volunteer probation officer who wrote an article, “Go to the Real Experts,” for Investor’s Business Daily. “If Clinton wants progress in reducing Littletons,” writes Darden, “he would do better next time around by consulting with people who make a career out of preventing youth crime — not exploiting it.”
Listening to, and apt questioning of, angry rebellious kids is the balm that soothes their rage, says Darden, who says he’s seen such techniques work, techniques that were notably absent from the parents and professionals of Littleton.
“I remember one boy who was assigned to a probation officer after being admitted to juvenile hall,” says Darden. “The child had been abused by more than 10 men in preceding months, was prone to histrionics and had to be restrained regularly. His probation officer told us that ‘he had once broken out of a straitjacket and actually scaled a rubber cell wall.’ The probation officer listened to the boy’s shouting and angry spitting. He responded with empathy and discipline. One evening after several weeks, the boy opened up and talked with his probation officer for hours. The next day, the wildness had subsided. Straitjackets and rubber cells became a thing of the past.”
“But the real lesson is that what works in kids’ lives comes not from Washington or even Hollywood,” says Darden. “It’s only when we listen to individual kids that we can know exactly how best to communicate the message of civility and morality that they need to hear.”
As crazy and depraved as some of the stuff that comes out of Hollywood is, it’s impossible to imagine oneself catapulted out of a theater and propelled into a mass murder spree by films like “Matrix” or “Pulp Fiction.” Most of us could sit forever in a black trench coat listening to Marilyn Manson or sit with an arsenal of assault weapons and fertilizer bombs while watching “Natural Born Killers” and never be tempted to blow up our high school. It’s rage born of abuse that’s the key factor in most of these murder sprees, not guns or movies.
For someone to go on a rampage with an assault weapon, the rage generally has to be there smoldering in unfathomable proportions, engendered by abuse and unrelieved cruelty and waiting to be set off by almost anything — the essential lesson of “Natural Born Killers.” Victims turning into oppressors is the history of humanity.
We live in a punitive society where the president of the United States engages in bombing missions at the very same moment that he’s urging high school kids to use “words not weapons” in resolving conflicts with one’s enemies. Giant punitive damage awards and deadly punitive bombing raids. Whether toward individuals or countries, ostracism and punishment are usually the least desirable alternatives.
As columnist George Melloan warns in the Wall Street Journal regarding possible Republican overreaction to news of Chinese espionage, “It will be extremely important to the world at large for the U.S. to establish a relationship that will encourage China’s development along positive lines. … It requires engagement, and that is something for Congress to remember in the heat of its anger. … One of the biggest dangers is Congress’ instinct to try to isolate, politically and economically, nations that incur its displeasure. …
“If a reminder of what can happen is needed, take a look at the Germans, who created an infant state of the 19th century and after political exploitation of their strong sense of manhood, became the enfants terribles of the 20th century.”
In Littleton, Colo., before the memorial crosses for Dylan Klebold and Eric Harris were destroyed by the distraught father of one of the shooting victims, a message at the foot of Harris’ cross read, “Your lives were lost long before this ever happened. Shame to all of us for never noticing.” And on Dylan Klebold’s someone wrote a similar message: “We failed you.” Janet Tanner of Arizona said she was glad there were crosses for the two shooters. “They need blessings too. God rest their souls, poor, tormented children.”