"Put 'em Up Against The Wall"
April 19, 2007

Once upon a time ... back in the mid to late 80s ... long, long ago ... a small group of misfits decided to eat lunch in a favourite teacher's classroom instead of leaving campus for lunch ... or sitting in the school cafeteria. Bright students, all, intellectually curious, we were nonetheless misfits. We soon discovered that the back "wall" of the classroom was actually a chalkboard. Being silly, we began writing the lyrics to the theme from Gilligan's Island on the back wall one day, just trying to see if we could remember it all.

Then it was lyrics to various songs from Pink Floyd's The Wall.

Soon thereafter, the sideboards were taken up with our silly and convoluted plans for world domination.

Ed, sometimes Brian, myself, Dan, Ben ... a few others who appeared from time to time.

We were being silly and we all knew it. Most of the guys played tabletop war games and knew their history backwards and forwards. It was fun to both discuss silly strategies and learn history all at the same time. But more often than not, when Doug appeared with us at lunch, we stopped the games.

Doug was simply too serious about his plans for world domination. I don't know that his intensity scared anyone in the group, exactly, but he made us all uncomfortable.

Doug was one of those overly brilliant kids whose brain had simply developed far faster than both his moral compass and his common sense. And let's not talk about his social skills. He had some, but he thought social skills were for lesser mortals than he.

We went to a high school where one kid drove a Lambroghini, another regularly drove his dad's Alfa Romeo ... and, not being a big car person, I've forgotten the third big name car that sometimes graced our parking lots. They took spring break at Padre Island or Florida ... Christmas at Breckenridge and Taos.

In short ... I went to school with the same kinds of kids as Dylan Harris, Eric Kleibold ... and apparently Cho Seung-Hui.

There is no reason ... there is no excuse ... for killing 33 people.

Our little lunchtime group was brilliant ... we were misfits ... most of us were angry ... most of us felt powerless.

Nonetheless, we managed to get through high school relatively unscathed.

The day that I heard about Columbine ... I thought to myself, my god, that could have been us. I seem to remember one discussion ... a day that Doug was there ... probably the day we stopped playing the silly world domination game with him in the room ... when we talked about how to get rid of the bullies and popular kids in our school. I can remember exchanging a look with Ed and Dan. This wasn't a joke any more. Ben was a bit too intense. Doug had altogether too much of a plan set up.

Had any either of them had access to real firepower ... or that one last event to cause them to snap ... "Columbine" could have happened in Texas instead of Colorado ... and at least 10 years earlier than it did occur.

There is no reason ... there is no excuse ... for killing 33 people.

Doug had two humbling experiences his senior year, after discovering that he'd be going to Princeton. I like to think that the one in which I was involved taught him something of humanity and consequences and perhaps helped to kickstart his moral compass. The other, I think, simply taught him some humility.

First, Doug was angry both with my best friend ... and with me. I can't remember why he was ticked off at Drew, but he decided that the best way to get back at him ... was to first take out all of Drew's support network. That is, he was going to make sure that none of Drew's friends were in a position to help him when Doug finally struck out at Drew.

Because I think he felt humiliated by me (completely by accident), I think that's why he chose me as his first victim.

In my first year of college, I was still living at home, by command of the parental units. Over Thanksgiving, I attended a little bash just a few blocks down from my house. It was only the second time I'd had alcohol and I got a bit more than I should have. Apparently, Doug thought that I "liked" him ... and he tried to kiss me ... being completely drunk ... I didn't realize what he was doing until his tongue was in my mouth. I got him to stop, tried not to hurt his feelings ... and then went home. I felt bad about it, but I didn't think too much of it.

Drew was talking with Doug a few days later and told him of course I'd tried to stop him ... didn't Doug know I was gay??

So ... ready to take Drew down, Doug called my house and told my mother that I was gay. The end result of that mess was that my parents divorced and I was told to "change or get out." I got out.

But I quickly figured out who the anonymous tipster had been and went up to the high school to confront Doug and simply ask him why he had done that. I was going to do it privately, but when I got to the school, the teacher I'd had for English the year before told me to come on in to the classroom. Somewhat reluctantly, I wound up asking him why he'd told my mom I was gay in front of his whole English class. He couldn't meet my eyes. Just stared at his desk and mumbled it wasn't him.

I assumed that the class wouldn't really take his side or mine ... being gay was not "cool" in 1988, as the AIDS epidemic was in full swing and being in Texas and all. I found out later that most of the class gave him the silent treatment for the rest of the year.

What was interesting was that it did seem to penetrate Doug's brain that I wasn't there for revenge. I wanted an answer ... I just wanted to know why he'd seen fit to try to ruin my life.

(What was his second event? In short, he was making a kitchen-chemistry bomb. It didn't go off like it was supposed to. So he picked it up, and, cocky as always, shook it. Apparently it blew up in his face and while it didn't seriously hurt him, it did do some damage to both his face and his cocky attitude.)

There is no reason ... there is no excuse ... for killing 33 people.

Cho Seung-Hui claimed that he was driven into a corner. That it was "our" fault that he had already killed two and was about to kill more. Obviously, if Cho was disturbed. At this point, many people directly affected by his actions hate him right now. Many people not directly affected also hate him.

From the garbled and rambling document that he mailed out he railed against the rich who "crucified him."

There is no reason ... there is no excuse ... for killing 33 people.

What I fear right now is not another copycat. It's not another school shooting. It's that we will continue to ignore the lessons we should be learning from all of these people who snap.

From all of these people who feel that they are powerless and so seek to grasp some semblance of power by blindly rampaging against those they feel oppress them.

I saw an old-ish movie a few weeks ago. The Player, with Tim Robbins. It's all about this hot-shot producer who treats people like crap ... disposable ... objects to manipulate. One of the writers that he has jerked around decides to get revenge ... calls him ... sends him death threats ... on and on. The producer begins to behave a bit better. Trying to make up to everyone in hopes that he'll make up to the guy who's harassing him. Whilst talking to a writer that he thinks is the one harassing him, he snaps ... drowns the guy.

At the end of the movie, the producer has discovered that he's killed the wrong guy ... the writer harassing him gets his movie made after all ... and the producer goes right back to being a total asshole.

There is no reason ... there is no excuse ... for killing 33 people.

Have we done the same thing? I know that I see these patterns of behaviours going back long before Columbine.

I see it in the wars we wage against each other, be it nation against nation ... or neighbor against neighbor. And when the inevitable tragedies come to light ... we cry and we mourn and we rail against the unfairness of it all.

But do we change?

Charles, Eric, Dylan, Cho ... there is no reason, no excuse for what they've done. I do not pardon them for their actions.

Instead, I fear for us all. For those moments when we're tired and cranky and fed up ... and we snap at the wrong person who then goes out and rampages in some way shape or form. Maybe they just get drunk and then drive. Maybe they internalize some unthought criticism and spiral for years before taking some action.

Our words and actions toward other people ... are they kind? are they thought-full? are they both compassionate and true?

Or, completely without meaning to, are we somehow helping to shape the next tragedy?

There is no reason ... there is no excuse ... for killing people.

I discovered through some friends from high school, that a boy I dated my junior year remembered things completely differently from me. He attempted to turn our high school dating into a recreation of his favourite TV show, Moonlighting. The problem, of course, was that he was no Bruce Willis, and I was certainly no Cybill Shepherd. And, to be honest, attempting to be funny and amusing ... and ultimately, shallow ... 24/7, was far too draining for me.

I was surprised at how bitter he was about it ... twenty years after the fact. I had thought we'd parted on good terms. At least, that we had made some peace about it.

How do our actions affect others? We can't always know and we can't always be completely responsible for speaking one wrong word which affects another's mind in unexpected ways ... any more than we can live in daily fear of planes crashing into our buildings.

But we can strive to be full of thought in our dealings with others. We can attempt compassion and understanding.

And then we can pray to whatever higher powers there might be ... that it's enough.

Posted by Red Monkey at April 19, 2007 11:15 AM | Struggles | | StumbleUpon Toolbar Stumble |


Manic said:

It's a tragic event. Maybe people take life just a bit to seriously, don't know how to relativate. Maybe we should just give a little less about the now and the future and remember those good olden days when we were silly and young and could climb trees without thinking this will ruin my 50-dollar pants.
Let's just live life to the fullest and see what the future has in store for us.

April 19, 2007 11:09 AM


MsDemmie said:

Taoism Chant - 6th Century

If there is to be peace in the world,
There must be peace in the nations.

If there is to be peace in the nations,
There must be peace in the cities.

If there is to be peace in the cities,
There must be peace between neighbors.

If there is to be peace between neighbors,
There must be peace in the home.

If there is to be peace in the home,
There must be peace in the heart.

April 19, 2007 12:57 PM


Red said:

You always amaze me. I do hope that many read this and heed the lessons there to be learned.
MsDemmie is spot on as well.

April 19, 2007 1:21 PM


new illuminati said:

'if he's had the firepower'. Exactly. Guns are made for one purpose. Killing. Time to wake up to the fact that the rest of the developed world doesn't have this problem - because they're smart enough to know that anger + fist = bloody nose, while anger + gun = murder.
200 years ago Americans demanded the 'rights' to own slaves and subjugate women and minorities. Times have changed. Welcome to the 3rd millennium where peace will become possible when we throw away the war toys.
You can't shake your neighbour's hand with a gun in your own.
And the right to bear CONCEALED weapons? Don't make me cry.
Wargamers are usually a very intelligent bunch. Congratulations on making it through the game without actually signing up.

April 20, 2007 6:37 AM


Smash said:

"There is no reason ... there is no excuse ... for killing people."

Unless of course, they all happen to be bank managers.

April 21, 2007 7:42 PM
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