Call me sick. Call me macabre. Call me whatever you like, but I am not afraid to admit that when I hear about a school shooting I tend to get a big grin on my face. Why? I’ll get into that after I give you the facts of the story.
Last week’s school shooting in Santana High School in California was the deadliest since the shootings at Columbine (my favorite C-word) almost two years ago. The gunman, 15-year-old Charles Andrew Williams, netted himself two kills and wounded 13 others as he sprayed bullets from the lavatory doorway, smiling as he pulled the trigger according to one student. Other students said that Williams was picked on all the time, mainly because “he was one of the scrawniest guys,” thus making him an easy target for the cruelty of his peers. But unlike the Columbine gunmen, Williams acted alone and surrendered peacefully in the bathroom he was shooting from.
What makes this shooting refreshingly different from the Columbine shooting is that no one is blaming video games, movies or black trenchcoats for Williams’ actions. But what still frustrates me is that no one is focusing on what I think is the real cause: the ones who made this boy’s life a living hell.
High school is a savage realm where the rules of the outside world have little relevance. It is a tiny world where all you need to succeed are good looks, athletic ability to play for the varsity team and the ability to conform readily, immediately and without question (these people are commonly referred to as jocks). Those who do not possess good looks, athletic ability and the ability to conform are subject to being ostracized, ridiculed and savagely beaten by their peers with virtual impunity. And to further make sure that the above points are driven into the brains of high school students, they are forced to spend eight hours a day in this absurd universe for two-thirds of the year for four years. Tell this scenario to an eighth grader who is handsome and good at sports and he or she will fall in love with the concept of high school. Tell this scenario to a skinny bookworm with headgear and despair will consume this child.
And that’s what causing these school shootings: despair. Not a lot of people know the crippling power of despair (especially those who were at the top of the social pyramid in high school where your most pressing issue was who you were going to take to the prom) so let me try to convey a sense of it to you using mere words. Imagine yourself in a small room with no doors or windows. In this room with you are four people who ridicule you and beat you up every day with no remorse for the sole reason of because they can. Now imagine that you have absolutely no means to fight back. And as if things couldn’t get worse, imagine that there is no hope of this situation ever changing. If you have any sense of empathy you now know what despair feels like. Sadly, that is also what high school feels like for someone at the bottom of the food chain. And with a recent survey saying that being bullied is the number one problem that kids face in school, I think it’s safe to say that more and more kids are being gripped by this type of despair and depression.
So why do school shootings make me grin like the Cheshire cat? Because I see school shootings as a sort of modern-day storming of the Bastille. The hopelessly downtrodden rise up and cast off their chains of despair in a fit of revolution (and barrage of bullets). Plus, it really shakes up the jocks. It’s not often, if at all, that the balance of power shifts that far away from them. But sadly, in the end, nothing really changes (except for a couple people on permanent leave from school due to being arrested or killed). After a week or so of mourning and people supporting each other and all that other community solidarity bull, things revert to the way things used to be. The jocks go back to the top of the social mountain where they rule with cruel impunity and the freaks and geeks flutter back down to the bottom. But for that short period of time, the once untouchable members of the high school social elite were no better than the nerds they so zealously abuse. That is justice, my friends, and it makes me feel warm inside.
Of course, not everyone shares my opinion. President Bush called the shooting “a disgraceful act of cowardice.” I say it was a desperate act of courage. He was not courageous in the sense that he was doing a worthy deed. He was courageous in the sense that, in his own misguided way, he refused to be a victim anymore. He hated his situation and did something about it. Was it right? No, but at least he did something. He stopped being a passenger in the car ride of life and, for a short time, became the driver. Bush added “When America teaches our children right from wrong and teaches values that respect life in our country, we’ll be better off.” Aside from the disgustingly obvious religious slant, I agree with this statement. If our children knew what right and wrong were, Charles Andrew Williams and the Columbine gunmen would never have been driven to the point of irrevocable despair.
And so to President Bush and the rest of the American public, I say save your scorn for Charles Andrew Williams. Our judicial system will deal with him. I say turn your harsh eyes and thoughts to those who tore him down until he could no longer bear it. They are the ones to blame, but sadly no one will. Except for me.