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- Responses -Tuesday, 1 February 2000
Dr. Adam M. Garfinkle, author of "Searching for Heroes in the Midst of Tragedy":
After sleeping on it for a night or two, I have concluded that Nicholas Turse's rebuttal deserves a comment: four comments, to be specific. I will be brief.
First, let us review the matter of who can and cannot read. Mr. Turse's revulsion against the "system"-whatever that is, for it is never defined-seems clear enough to me upon rereading his text. He does call the "system" "insidious" and he does say that Harris and Klebold fought it "with good reason." The fact that Messrs. Harris and Klebold attacked the loathsome system "that had failed them" through their protest suggested to me that Turse considers their behavior understandable if not entirely lauda
So much for my reading abilities; now what about Mr. Turse's? I did not call Mr. Turse a Nazi, as he claims. I thought then, and I think now, that he is just confused, and that his confusion has led him to nurse endearing sentiments about behaviors and views that are objectively Nazi-like. (And pace Mr. Sykes, I do not think that the release of the Columbine tapes undermines my assessment of Harris and Klebold's behavior; I think it strengthens it.)
Second, as to Turse's claim that Harris and Klebold "reinvented" guerrilla theater, and hence his dismissal of the complaint of all three commentators that the 1960s metaphor was inappropriate: well, let me only express my full agreement with David Farber's point that anything can be defined as political if one debases the concept enough. This claim was, and remains, in Farber's parlance, "silly."
Third, I must admit to having been set on my heels by Mr. Turse's claim that his original article was "based upon, and written in, the rapid-fire style of random, senseless violence." Therefore, he suggests, I should not have tried to find a logical train in what he wrote. It's been a long time since I was a graduate student. Has something fundamental changed since then? What does it even mean to write in a rapid-fire, random, and violent way? Are graduate students no longer required to use logic when
Finally, and most amazing-to me, anyway-is Mr. Turse's refusal to made a moral judgment between someone who dies for the sanctification of God's name, and someone who murders innocent people for whatever reason. Mr. Turse writes: "I do not have such a high opinion of myself to pass judgment on whether others' actions are right or wrong." What is required to make a moral judgment is not a high opinion of oneself but an elemental moral sense. If Mr. Turse cannot judge between Cassie Bernall on one hand,
If he claims to make no moral judgments at all, then he is just not telling the truth. Otherwise, how could he have written in his original essay that the American educational system and way of life are, in his words, part of "a system as insidious as the military-industrial complex was to [Harris and Klebold's] 1960s counterparts"? Isn't that a moral judgment?
Either way, this is more than silly. It is downright sad.
Wednesday, 19 Jan 2000
Dr. Samuel R. Smith (University of Colorado), author of
Changing Times, Dissimilar Decades
It now appears that the original accounts of Bernall's death
were inaccurate. In-depth features from both Salon Magazine
and Westword tell us
that most of what we know about Columbine is wrong. I can't help wondering how our
exchange in the forum would be different if we took into account that the shootings were
not racially motivated, jocks and Christians were not targeted, and that if there ever
really was a "Trench Coat Mafia," Harris and Klebold were not members of it.
More to the point, all available evidence indicates that it was Valeen
survived the attack, and not Cassie Bernall, who "said yes."
Thursday, 20 Jan 2000
Then there were the white boys who murdered one of their teachers because he was a homosexual. Radical as the Klan.
Conformist institutional culture combined with
techno-alienation and economic competition/hopelessness, a nihilistic national zeitgeist
dominated by consumerist spectacle that increasingly targets youth, and poor literacy and
communication skills (which in my experience as a teacher in a juvenile prison directly
correlates with violent expression)- sure, it's enough to make anyone want to blow
SOMETHING up! But wait, women and girls also experience this despair! Hell, I was so
incapable of adapting to the socialization program in highschool that I simply stopped
speaking and stayed in bed for the better part of a year! Furthermore, the ridiculous
"radical" justifications for the scale of violence at Columbine don't stand up
to the complaints of young women who are increasingly threatened. "The Jocks [also
white boys] make fun of us," does not compare with,"The Quarterback raped me and
then peed in my face and called me a
Straight white males have been asserting their power, values
and identity by perpetrating extrordinary violence against women, homosexuals and people
of color etc. etc. for a VERY VERY long time! Perhaps it's time for Goverment and
University pundits alike to own up to this and question their own culture and history and
own these kids as their pedagogical children. Maybe we should start hearing less about the
"woman problem" and the "black problem" and more about the
"disenfranchised white boy problem."
From email@example.com :-
I am a sophomore in high school, and know of its bullshit social hierarchy system. Harris and Klebold were on the edge, or the bottom, of this system and chose to be there. The amount of mental and emotional (and often physical) abuse is hardly realized by adults on such voluntary (and involuntary) outcasts.
I think they were not insane, just unstable. They were pissed off and felt helpless in this oppressive society (and please don't spout about how free we are, with any sort of government the people are never free). They thought in sort of a moral quarantine, and didn't realize truly the true loss of life that would occur.
My point is, don't speak as if Harris and Klebold were ignorant and insane. They weren't, and don't blame them or their parents. The social system is to blame, and revolution is our only hope of regaining individualism.
From Alan Moore, City University of New York :-
Interesting and provocative thesis here considered.
If you're looking for '60s demons, I'd look more closely at historical African-American activism (I'm reading William L. Van Deburg's_New Day in Babylon_, 1992), many of whose advocates were explicit in threatening violent retaliation against massive racist reactions to their demands. Put that together with the "gangster rap" hip-hop culture, rooted in that activiism, and you have your '60s gun-crazy context.
The issue is construed in the USA as making gun control self-evidently necessary... But the Panthers, like Daniel Shays, were about the 2nd Amendment; Columbine was a surreal adaptation (like the 1960s British movie "If", which is precisely about gunning down the school).