Twisting Sorrow

The System's Response to Littleton

Revolutionary Worker #1005, May 9, 1999

Two high school kids walked into Columbine High School and opened fire. They killed 13 people and then died themselves. The incident plunged their affluent suburb of Littleton into shock and deep sorrow--it left millions of people wondering if there was a meaning to such a rampage--if it was a symptom of deeper problems in society, and if so what?

The official media and the government officials descended on this scene, twisting and manipulating the sorrows of people for their own purposes--politically milking the whole thing for their campaign of criminalizing and controlling the youth.

"How could such a thing have happened here?" the media repeated over and over again--and then answered with a heavy-handed message that drastic measures must be taken.

Hour after hour, the talking heads of government and media ran down their favorite list of clampdowns and censorships that (they said) needed implementation. Less than one percent of schools in the U.S. have experienced a violent death in the last seven years. But such facts weren't heard over the manufactured frenzy

Where to place the blame? Immediately, it was put out that these kids were outsiders, "different," part of an alienated high school clique that wore black and was hostile to the in-crowd of athletes and achievers. They played video games, listened to certain rock music, hung out on the computer.

Literally the day after the Littleton attack, kids from across Canada and the U.S. started describing on the internet how they are suddenly under suspicion--called into principals' offices for wearing black, for being "different" and "alienated." Television commentators called on kids to report on their classmates--and take note of strange behavior and thoughts. The New York Times reported that "students have been arrested for casual remarks made on a school bus, or threats mumbled in response to a teacher's reprimand."

There was constant coverage about the need for parents to "take responsibility"--to probe and snoop and control the lives and thoughts and actions of their kids. The parents of the two shooters, Eric Harris and Dylan Klebold, were cast as villains of this story. The local attorney general searched the legal books for a way to charge the parents, and announced (with regret) that he found no laws he could use.

The TV has been full of discussion of the need for more censorship--of rock music, of the Internet, of video games. The proposals tumbled out--more police in schools, more metal detectors, more religion in the curriculum, more "therapy" for the alienated... And, of course, there was the usual cry for ever more gun control--a demand for further disarming the people.

The mourning of Littleton has been twisted into Big Brother Week across the U.S.A. High schools will feel even more like prison when this is through. The Clinton Clampdown program of criminalizing the youth, pushing for conservative "family values" and banning guns was on a full roll.

Eric Harris and Dylan Klebold were two deeply alienated kids--but their rebellion against the world around them did not go in a progressive direction, they didn't take a stand against the system or the authorities. They did not take their stand at the side of oppressed people of the world. Instead they went off in a nihilistic, anti-people direction--launching their attack on Hitler's birthday, and aiming it at their classmates and teachers.

"Where would two seemingly ordinary, unhappy boys in a wealthy American suburb get the idea that they should blow away all those who pissed them off?" The media has acted like this is a horrible mystery that has no easy answer. But in fact, unjust violence runs deep in the U.S. The ideas behind such an attack are not something alien that had to sneak onto the Ozzie-and-Harriet streets of the American heartland from Internet connections or German industrial music. They are homegrown. They are soaked into the whole political climate--including the militias and racist skinheads who pose as anti-status quo.

It was revealing when one fellow student at Columbine High School remarked to the New York Times: "Dylan and Eric did use racial slurs. Because unfortunately, it's becoming common. And what I have heard is they did call Isaiah an `N' before they shot him. I don't think it meant that they were racist. I think they were just using the word that they...learned is okay." Welcome to America 1999, where the "N-word" is considered common and unremarkable in the mainstream.

Welcome to America 1999, where on television scenes of the funerals of Littleton alternate with interviews of stone-faced U.S. pilots describing how they bring "death from above," how dropping bombs is "just a job" and how they work hard not to think of their targets as people, down there below.

Why would a kid who tried to join the U.S. military shoot his classmates? What ideas might two unhappy boys have gotten from newsmen and senators who rant that U.S. missiles should just "take out" heads of state who won't go along with their program?

President Bill Clinton sat there on TV--after bombing four different countries this year--and talked about the need to "control guns" and "curb violence." This President (who sent cruise missiles to destroy the main medicine factory in the Sudan) shook his head as if he couldn't understand where two high school kids got off on so wrong a track. These kids were poisoned by the whole climate of cruelty and hostility that this system has promoted between people--and then their act is used to justify further actions to impose the politics of cruelty and suppression on youth all across the country.

When Amerikkka's own venom backs up there in a suburban high school, Official America answers by demanding more clampdown, more authority, more conformity, more censorship, more rules, more punishments, more patriarchy, more guns for the authorities. But the people need to answer by stepping up resistance to this system which only offers the youth a future of dog-eat-dog.

This article is posted in English and Spanish on Revolutionary Worker Online
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