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Wednesday, April 18, 2007

Nineteen minutes

"To oppose something is to maintain it."
-Ursula K. Le Guin

Last week a boy with a learner's permit trotted through a mobile home park with a rifle in hand and an axe to grind and opened fire on his alternative high school - just minutes from where we used to live. It hardly made the news; he was unsuccessful. He had been 'inspired' by a documentary about Columbine. The principal once called Thurston High his home.

This is where I would like to hit pause; to go on to something witty and bright, but I've avoided this post for a day now and I know I won't feel like writing much else until it is out of my system. When I heard about the shooting in Gresham, Oregon, it hurt my heart. I was reading Nineteen Minutes by Jodi Picoult and feeling raw. If you are new to this bestselling author, please be advised that she can break your heart. On the surface, Nineteen Minutes is about a school shooting and its aftermath. But it is so much more. It is also about bullying and being different, about raising a child and raising a monster. The writing is sentimental at times, but powerful. The fictional shooter, Peter Houghton, has been haunting me all week. I have woke up in the night, troubled. I don't think I will forget this character any time soon.

*****

I hate to comment on the Virginia Tech massacre - I don't want to cheapen its horror by my thoughts thousands of miles away. What do I know? I can't pretend to.

The national media attention is necessary and expected, but feels canned. Within hours, before parents could be notified and love ones could start grieving - before they identified the shooter's remains - there were fancy graphics and catch phrases. Since 2001, it seems like we like to give our nightmares an angle, broadcasting news like a movie trailer. We announce breaking stories, handing out rankings couched with words like 'the worst...' - like it's some sick award to win. I am not so sure this respects our dead, and perhaps it raises the bar for the next would-be killer, hungry for fame.

He sent a manifesto, mid-massacre. He wants us to remember him. I just don't know if we should, not like this.

I don't know that we can afford to point to his favorite song or to the crappy plays he wrote, like there's some big clue waiting for us. There will always be darkness with us. It leaves me sad, frustrated, impotent.

But I think we move forward, a little kinder, a little gentler.

We have to hope.

*****

FYI: Night (O the Joys) does this subject justice.

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3 comments:

scribbit said...

I felt the same, but I had no idea what to say about the horrible happenings.

Oh, The Joys said...

It all makes me feel very low.

(Thank you for your praise, btw. I am flattered and honored.)

Gregg said...

We should be hearing all the details about the lives that were ended, what they had accomplished, what they dreamed of accomplishing, etc.

Giving all this coverage to a psycho's "manifesto" validates both his twisted view, and the method for delivering it.

He is getting exactly what he dreamed and planned as a result of this coverage.