People have always found ways to kill one another - with poison, knives, pillowcases and airplanes - and I wonder if removing one weapon (albeit, the most efficient) will cure this sickness at all. (Looking for a more educated, hopeful write-up on this topic? Go here.) Some might say I'm a cynic but I prefer the term realist - I think it lies within each of us an ability to kill as well as an ability to love.
Meanwhile, come Friday - regardless of this latest incident - the media will mark the 8th anniversary of the Columbine massacre. Now that I am living just down the road from Littleton (noted locally for its adorable historic downtown) I can see why the locals dread the annual scab-picking event that it has become.
It was barely a year after Klebold and Harris had done their deed and I was meeting a new colleague in San Francisco. We were discussing where we had grown up when I noticed her sudden discomfort. Finally, she blurted, "Littleton, Colorado" and looked at the floor. There was some uncomfortable silence and finally somebody (God, I hope it was me) said, "Oh, I'll bet it's pretty there" and the conversation resumed. Of course we wanted to know what it was like, how she felt about it, etc. but what is there to say?
This is the challenge I face today: What is there left to say? What can we learn from this? Are we capable of learning at all? Is this just an invitable part of modern society? An out-facing boil that reveals an inner sickness?
Tom Mauser became a national advocate of gun control after his 15-year-old son, Daniel, was slain at Columbine High School. Even today, he admits: "I am not going to just say gun laws are going to take care of this." Instead, he wonders what precipitates such heinous events. "I think my primary thought is about anger. Anger and suicide. Why do we have so many people who think they have to take others' (lives) with them when they take their own?"
Brooks Brown, a former Columbine student who knew the gunmen and repeatedly tried to warn authorities about threats they had made, said the Virginia slayings didn't surprise him. "Once you've reached the point where you have lost everything it is not hard to be pushed in any direction," he said.
What disturbs me personally is my own feeling of distance. In the early hours of the story, before the number of victims were confirmed, another blogger and I sheepishly admitted our first reaction - annoyance.
"Tell me I'm an asshole," they said, "All I can think of in light of this school shooting is 'The Gonzales hearing won't be televised tomorrow! Nobody will carry it, they'll be 'working' this bleeds-it-leads story all week. It'll probably ruin Larry King's annversary week plans too."
My friend then asked me to rate their 'asshole-ish-ness' on a scale of 1 to 10. I found myself unable to pass judgement since my first thought was, "Another school shooting? Wait, didn't we just have one? Is this a different one?" As if this was some kind of parade protest or scheduled event. I then went back to work, not quite ready to attempt the impossible - to get a grasp on what has happened, understand the grief, ask who has done this and why.
I can only hope this is the last time I write about this - it is certainly not the first.
Finally, I leave you with a poem written by Norman Mailer in 1967 immediately after he stabbed his second wife with a pen knife. He missed her heart by chance: