The ten year anniversary of the Columbine massacre was reason for a large gathering at Columbine High School to remember and commemorate the sad moments when a day's peace and the tranquility of a wealthy white community were interrupted by gunfire, indiscriminate violence and bloodshed. Speeches were delivered, doves released as each name of the murdered thirteen students and one teacher were called out. Naturally, I, like the rest of Colorado and the nation at large, for that moment sympathized with the parents of the dead. We also felt great pain for kids whose lives were irretrievably touched, forever changed, some horribly damaged by the two gun men -- Eric Harris and Dylan Klebold. And yet in it all, there is a strange sense of unaccountability. There is no answer to the question: did this have to happen? Is anyone culpable?
Clearly there is no question that in the end, the gun men pulled the trigger as they went about the carnage laughing like madmen. They were responsible for the final acts of murder.
That said, there were many others who should have known of the looming disaster, but preferred not to say anything about it. Or they were not overly concerned about what would happen and didn't care for the consequences of Harris' and Klebold's actions. I Include parents and neighbors, police authorities who had had contact with the two young men as well as other students. They all hide behind the big sign that reads: "I'm not responsible. I knew nothing." I too include gun dealers, gun sellers and the all powerful NRA. They all shrug their shoulders, with their pat answer: "Guns don't kill people. People kill people." No one stands up to own up to the fact that they either didn't do their duty or didn't do whatever needed doing to forestall a looming calamity.
No. In America owning up to our mistakes, our failings or failure is taboo. We must present an innocent façade, whatever happens, no matter whatever evidence is unearthed. Much worse, acknowledging failure can lead to one being sued. This American malady is everywhere. From the wars we wage -- with their terrible death toll of children, women, and our own young soldiers killed in them -- without any reason. To innocent kids, cut down by deranged youth who should have been stopped long before. It's happening all across America and we, as a society seem incapable of putting an end to it.
What's worse is, Columbine was just one of the first school killings in America. A dozen others have followed, with many more killings and maiming of American kids by other American kids. It is bizarre to think that many more kids have been killed by Americans than have died and suffered at the hands of Muslim jihadists and terrorists. Each killing in our white middle class homes proves that America will never get anything right as long as some powerful lobby -- specifically the gun lobby -- holds sway over the land.
The two murderers' parents, it seems, had nothing to do with anything; even as their kids assembled pipe bombs in their homes it never raised any suspicion. The parents walked about like a bunch of zombies. They clearly disprove American conservatives' contention that heterosexual marriage is the best way to raise "good" children. For ten years, the Klebolds and the Harrises have been as quiet as they must have been as their sons went about their uninterrupted bomb making, bomb testing near their homes. These smart and well to do folks want us to believe that they had no responsibility. They were just a bunch of unaware white middle-class sleep walkers.
With necessary legal protection, they could of course have been an amazing resource for parents of other troubled teens. They could have helped all of us understand what it is they were thinking and what they saw in their children. What we probably should look for in our own and what we can all do -- pro-actively.
Attempts to understand what transpired in these homes, to these children and their parents led to rather disorganized court hearings, and eventually to nothing. A blanket of darkness was thrown over all of us by the court, a judge sealed all of the documents outlining their activity. We will never know what they said, what they thought of their kids' crimes.
Some have tried to blame the victims. It's been claimed that Harris and Klebold were bullied, especially by the football team. The truth is, bullying has gone on as long as humans have been on this earth. We bully or are bullied in one form or another on a daily basis. It is the way life unfolds. This is an excuse for murder which I find both puerile and illogical. It certainly can't explain a carnage as horrendous as we witnessed at Columbine.
Both Eric and Dylan were clinically depressed, had been seeing psychologists, and been prescribed medications for their troubles. I find it absurd that therapists and parents had no communication about their sons' propensity towards violence and probable self-destructive or suicidal acts. Why a trained mental health worker can't raise red flags about their patient's potential danger to society is beyond me. But we know one thing; it cost the life of 14 innocent human beings.
Whereas the Klebold family gave the media one interview, the Harrises have remained cloaked in mysterious darkness. It is as if Eric Harris was a BMW driving monster that arose from some dark lagoon. Neither has Wayne or Kathy Harris come forward to give us a glimpse of how this tragedy could have transpired. We know they knew their son was making pipe bombs, mixing explosives. Why didn't they stop their son or at least report him to the police? The public is at least owed this information. There should have been a way to make them talk. Apparently personal silence (The Fifth Amendment) trumps the public good and the need to prevent other tragedies.
It still boggles the mind; I can't understand where the Harrises were as a monster grew more menacing, more bloodthirsty under their roof? From the public records one learns that the father was a retired Air Force pilot. The question I continue to ask is: what happened to the military discipline when it came to raising their child? Here too one is met by the blank American stare that says: "not my fault."
As a variety of tragedies continue to befall Americans, no one it seems is ever at fault. It's as if some amorphous presence, without identity, causes our ills. And whenever we try to discern its facial relief, we find lawyerly layers obfuscating details.
Bridges fail; our healthcare is in tatters; our education system is on life support; our economy is in shambles, our banks having been raided and plundered. By whom? The only answer we get is: we don't know who did it. No one is ever responsible. We scratch on the surface, never find the cause or reason; we get tired and go on to other tragedies; other endeavors.
More specifically the gun lobby in its callous calculation has made it impossible for this nation to even discuss reasonable rules for gun ownership. As Michael Moore's "Bowling for Columbine" so clearly showed, the NRA has made certain that we don't even consider that guns had anything to do with the massacre. That any mad man, any mentally unhinged, anyone with a terrorist bent can buy guns and other killing merchandise, leaves the NRA cold and the Second Amendment zealots indifferent. It is a hallmark of American indifference to the gun violence epidemic. It's a blot on the American soul that can't see and empathize with the pain and suffering of their neighbor -- that is incapable of putting itself in the shoes of another. And so, the carnage goes on. Victims are innocents, American children. The gun lobby's answer to Columbine? Guns had nothing to do with it; it's not our responsibility.
Ten years after the carnage, no one has stepped forward to claim some part of the responsibility, to own up to the pain inflicted upon so many. And we of course continue in our own merry ways. We shed a few tears after school killings all over the nation, after Virginia Tech killings and maiming. But we soon forget and like the innocents we skip along merrily until the next tragedy.
I can only ask: "when will we ever learn?"