by Tara P
I wrote this my senior year of high school, 1999
|There is a reason for everything, from why the sky is blue to why no two snow flakes are exactly the same. While we look for reasons, we look to place blame on someone or something to explain why things happen. On April 20, 1999, two Colorado high school students terrorized their school and community and left the country pointing fingers at those they feel is responsible for the tragedy.
People are divided on who holds the blame, popular culture, including music artists and Goth culture, or family interaction. Many feel the creators of video games, such as Doom, and movies, like The Basketball Diaries, show children that violence is okay and both neglect to show the consequences of such violence. Violent, bloody video games in which the player has to shoot his victims teaches the player how to murder someone with precision, since, if the player does not beat their high score or beat a level, they have to go back and do it again. As well, the movie industry has become a scapegoat. Hollywood has a long history of a love affair with firepower and violence and many believe the graphic nature of some films has desensitized their audiences. Along the same lines, the music industry has come under much criticism in the wake of violence. Many artists, among those are Marilyn Manson and German bands Rammstein and KMFDM, have been singled out for their explicit lyrics and graphic performances. Lyrics like Manson’s “I am the ism, my hate’s a prism/Let’s just kill everyone and let your god sort them out” are believed to be part of the motivation behind Eric Harris and Dylan Klebold’s attack on Columbine High School. Still yet, some believe because Harris and Klebold were part of a group of dubbed by other students as The Trench Coat Maffia, they were part of Gothic culture. The definition of Goths is a subculture of youths who wear black, listen to shock rocker Marilyn Manson (among others), and think about death. They were largely seen as benign outsiders, maybe a little weird, but harmless. Harris and Klebold had adopted at least some of the Goth lifestyle, but unlike their true Goth counterparts, they had a strong tendency toward violence and hate, as they demonstrated on April 20. They were influence by neo-Nazism, had racist attitudes, and were at odds with the school jocks.
However, others believe it is the parents’ responsibility to teach children the difference between real life and make believe and be better role models for their children. It has been proven that most children who commit violent crime have trouble getting along with playmates by first grade, do poorly in school and have few friends by second or third grade, and by the age of 10 pick fights and are labeled as social outcasts by peers. Such children come from families in which parents have poor discipline skills due to negligence, indifference, being too coercive, or using harsh physical punishment. Such children feel they have no purpose in society, have no goals or hope for the future and have low self-esteem. As well, children today have easy access to firearms, be it through an unlocked gun cabinet, illegal obtainment through a courier, or over the Internet. A pending White House crime bill calls for stricter gun controls, including penalties for adults who illegally provide guns to children. First Lady Hillary Rodham Clinton stated “We should hold people who allow children easy access to firearms criminally responsible for their reckless actions.” As well, Clinton called for more funding of psychological counseling, social work and other support services for young people to help troubled peers, as well as community hotlines and funding to treat mental illness in children.
We look for reasons, and whom to blame. Too many are quick to point fingers at a guilty party before all the information has been revealed. Everyone is quick to lay the blame on one group or another, but when someone points their finger at them these same people are quick to take the defensive. Since Eric Harris and Dylan Klebold are not here to defend themselves we must look at the clues they have left behind. Only they know what their mental states were when they walked into Columbine High School that morning and whatever their reasons and motivations were, it wasn’t just one particular cultural aspect - pop culture or family interaction - that led to the shooting.