What No One Will Say

“In the high school halls
in the shopping malls
conform or be cast out…” ~Rush, Subdivisions

In April 1999, my sister came home from work early and turned on the television just in time to see the very earliest moments of the news coverage of the Columbine High School massacre in Colorado. She says that one of the first interviews with a student who escaped the carnage said of Eric Harris and Dylan Klebold, “Those were the kids we cast out.” She says she has never seen the interview again.

Fast forward to last summer: James Eagan Holmes, an orange-haired loner in tactical gear, uses assault rifles and tear gas to commit a mass murder. Fast forward again to December: a skinny kid named Adam Lanza uses a Bushmaster assault rifle to murder 26 people at a grade school, including 20 children.

It is so easy to say that these people were broken machines. No one wants to imagine that another human being has enough darkness inside himself that he or she could do such a thing, so we use vastly oversimplified labels to dehumanize them: monster, pure evil, alien.

If I had a time machine and could check, I’ll bet none of these perpetrators were diagnosably mentally ill at all. I’ll bet that they were just so bitter and angry and dark from an entire life of being bullied and badgered, isolated and spit on, that they just finally decided to do the awfullest, blackest, most vindictive thing a human could imagine: kill the most innocent.

Did the victims deserve it? Of course not. But deserve’s got nothing to do with it.

"They get made fun of a lot. Not a lot of kids like them."
“They get made fun of a lot. Not a lot of kids like them.”

I’m still waiting for this headline: Former Tiny Infant Kills 33 in Shooting Rampage.

Another thing that negates the whole “monster, pure evil” paradigm is that Holmes and Lanza and Lee Harvey Oswald were all once tiny children themselves. What changed them from innocent children into soulless monsters?

One report about the Virginia Tech shooter, Seung-Hui Cho, said, “…he was ostracized and mercilessly bullied.”

Or this: if these exact same people had first turned their guns on themselves, they would be regarded with nothing but pity and sympathy. These monsters.

As I thought about this and discussed it, a coworker drew a diagram. It showed that you can blame guns, the NRA, mental health care, school security, etc. “But the elephant in the room,” the coworker explained, “is bullied kids.”

Like he was reading my mind.

There is a noisy, shallow campaign across American schools right now to stop bullying, propagated by people who have no idea what it’s like to bullied. It’s the popular kids, and they pay lip service to anti-bullying campaigns while never really understanding the nature of the very bullying they continue to do.

We have to look at ourselves and the society we have constructed. And I don’t mean that we need to look at the government or the medical system or the gun lobby. I mean that we need to look into the mirror. Who did this? Who made these lovely children into people so dark and awful, so burdened with suffering that they collapsed under its weight?

You did this. You. You murdered 20 children in Connecticut the minute you bought your ticket to see Die Hard with a Vengeance. You murdered those children the minute you clicked on an internet story about Lindsay Lohan. You murdered those children when you yelled “kill him” at the television during the Super Bowl. You murdered those children starting 30 years ago, when you called the class weakling a “fag.” You murdered those children with you selfishness, your shallowness, your petty indifference. And you blame some kid with a gun because you don’t have the courage or the intelligence to look in the mirror and take the blame for the world you have helped construct.

Look in the mirror now, and say it: I did this with my suburban home upgrades. I did this with my reality television. I did this with my monster truck rallies. I did this with my emptiness.


  1. Actually, I’d just come home after taking the GMAT, and was on a high from having been told I’d qualified for grad school.

    Anyway, yep. Right on. Agree with every word you said. I asked the girls at ballet the other night how they manage being bullied, and they said, “we do stuff to increase our confidence, so when we’re bullied, we’re able to say to ourselves, ‘you’re wrong about me'”.

    But that crack about Lindsay Lohan? Low blow, dude. I’ve totally done that.

  2. I’m sorry. That’s just too simple. It’s impossible to turn back time to see if Cocoa-Pebbles instead of oatmeal would have changed how an Adam Lanza, or James Eagan Holmes spent their day. It’s human to want to understand, to want there to be a defined difference that could be extracted from their lives. But if you put a million toddlers in with a puppy, there will be a small percentage of them that will pull its tail and make it yelp. And out of that small percent, there will be one that is amused rather than horrified by its action. Can we find that one? Should we try? Is it fair to infer a lifetime of actions from that one encounter? I’m an agnostic. I don’t know if there is a god to pray to for understanding. But to blame society is just another form of bullying.

  3. Michael, maybe I’m becoming a cranky old man with his “those goddam kids” comments. Your point is well taken, but this cranky old man is watching America go from kids-walk-to-school/people-play-outddoors/newspapers-are-the-source-for-news/money-should-be-saved to kids-driven-to-school-in-SUVs/obese-mid-twenties-moms-post-to-facebook/get-your-news-from-your-phone/money-is-for-me-wantee. I can’t help but think these changes equal a legitimate uptick in the instance of shallowness, violence, ignorance…

  4. The look in the mirror now, reminded me of this quote.
    “Man, I see in Fight Club the strongest and smartest men who’ve ever lived. I see all this potential, and I see it squandered. God damn it, an entire generation pumping gas, waiting tables — slaves with white collars. Advertising has us chasing cars and clothes, working jobs we hate so we can buy shit we don’t need. We’re the middle children of history, man. No purpose or place. We have no Great War. No Great Depression. Our great war is a spiritual war. Our great depression is our lives. We’ve all been raised on television to believe that one day we’d all be millionaires, and movie gods, and rock stars, but we won’t. We’re slowly learning that fact. And we’re very, very pissed off.” – Tyler Durden

    No one wants to just be regular people, some want to be famous and others will settle for infamous.

Comments are closed.