Today is my daughter’s 14th birthday. I love my kid. And I do my best to give her a great life, a happy childhood, and a reasonable shot at making something of herself. And as you can imagine with the news coming out of Ohio, there are a lot of things going through my mind right now – a number of which I’d like to never have to think about. But given that I’m the one ’round TTAG way that covers the “how I feel about things” beat, I feel duty-bound to share this with the class . . .
I was probably around ten or twelve or so before murder struck close to home. It was an Episcopal priest we knew – a great guy by the name of Father Garrett. He’d been one of the counselors at a church camp I went to as a kid. Later, we found out that he’d been on the road and encountered three teens/young adults at a diner. This would have been around the tail end of the hippie/flower power era. They were hungry. He fed them. They needed a ride. He gave them one. They wanted his life. They took it. It was brutal. Sudden. And left me with a hole in my heart that took some time for me to not feel.
It’s sad anytime someone dies young, I suppose. A life unfulfilled, and all that. But you really can’t know just how profound grief can be, until you filter that emotion through the prism of parenthood. I thank God every day, that my kid has never experienced any kind of violence or death, up close and personal, and that she is healthy and happy. But I can tell you that, every time I hear about an incident like what transpired yesterday in Ohio, it makes me realize that the best I can do is to try and shift the odds in our favor, but that there is absolutely, positively no way on Heaven or Earth for me to keep my baby girl 100% safe.
Every time something like this happens, the news media typically rattles their gun control sabres, wrings their hands in a pious manner, and demands that the government Do Somthing! to stop all this gun violence. But what could they do? You see, even in countries where guns are banned, there is still gun violence. Lots of it. The only way a gun ban might even stand a chance of working, is if every gun on the planet were rounded up and melted, and nobody – civilians, police, or military – ever had access to a gun again. Good luck with that plan. And virtually any gun law you can conceive triggers that nasty little “Law of Unintended Consequences” that steps on our right to be able to defend ourselves against any- and everybody who would do us harm.
But you say to yourself, “there ought to be some way to head the crazies off at the pass, before they kill!” Yep. You’d think so, wouldn’t you. But while hindsight is just about always 20-20, foresight is bloody well myopic. It’s virtually impossible to separate some kid who’s one slight away from going all Charles Whittman on his classmates, and some disaffected yoot who makes the mistake of doing his Rebel Without a Clue thang, writ large, on Facebook, and ends up in a psych ward.
Let’s look at a few context clues from the early media reports and see what we can divine from the media tea leaves. We know the kid is a Sophomore in High School. We also know he’s 17 years old. Huh? Seventeen? Shouldn’t he be a senior? His attorney claims that the kid is an excellent student, albeit shy and withdrawn, and that this came as a complete surprise to his family. Uh huh. Wait a tick, there. Let’s read between the lines of the barrister’s presser:
Bob Farinacci, speaking on behalf of the suspect’s family, said that the boy, was “Very, very scared and extremely remorseful…He is a very confused young man right now.” The lawyer added, “He’s very confused. He is very upset. He’s very distraught. … This is a very scary circumstance that I don’t think he could have possibly even foreseen himself in the middle of.”
Nice one, Bob. Let’s try to humanize the little monster – get him out front and try to drum up some sympathy for him, while the parents are busy grieving and burying their dead. Body count stands at two, right now, with three other victims in the hospital. But while the attorney tries his best to spin this tragedy in a positive light for his client and the family, CNN has uncovered a Facebook post that, in retrospect anyway, paints a much darker picture:
With little to go on, many turned to cryptic Facebook postings by the alleged shooter for a glimpse into Lane’s mindset — especially a long, dark poetic rant from December 30.
The post refers to “a quaint lonely town, (where there) sits a man with a frown (who) longed for only one thing, the world to bow at his feet.”
“He was better than the rest, all those ones he detests, within their castles, so vain,” he wrote.
Lane then wrote about going through “the castle … like an ominous breeze through the trees,” past guards — all leading up to the post’s dramatic conclusion.
“Feel death, not just mocking you. Not just stalking you but inside of you,” he writes. “Wriggle and writhe. Feel smaller beneath my might. Seizure in the Pestilence that is my scythe.”
He concluded the post with: “Die, all of you.”
Looking at the post and knowing what we know now, it’s easy to say “Why didn’t anybody see that this kid was a masacre waiting to happen? Why didn’t somebody get him help? Don’t his parents monitor his FB page? Shouldn’t his friends narc’d him out to his teachers?” Okay, in retrospect, that seems like it might even make sense. But I know a bunch of kids in the 13-to-18 demo that say things every bit as dark as that, and they have absolutely NO intention, motivation, or desire to shoot up the joint. And if you had some Big Brother monitoring FB for that kind of thing, (think: “Carnivore,” “ECHELON,” and “NarusInsight,” but tuned to words like “die,” “kill,” “death,” “pestilence,” etc.), kids would simply go back to writing in their journals – no ePaper trail there.
Of course, if parents were a little more plugged into their kids lives, I suspect the kids would be less screwed up in general. It might well be that, even someone who’s genetically more susceptible to the siren song of suicidal violence or the mantra of mass murder would be less likely to give in, if their parents were really close to them. And, of course, if you pay attention to your kids, you’ll likely see problems coming and be better prepared to head them off, before a kid’s depression turns deadly.
So we know that government is not the answer. And as RF points out, our schools are essentially all target-rich environments, given the taste for “gun-free zone” legislation around the country. And common-sense tells us that the happier kids are, the less likely they are to shoot up the joint. (And just to be clear, in this context “happy” does NOT mean “give them everything they want.” It means “get close to your kids and be an active part of their lives.”) Great. But what about all the other parents and kids – you know, the clueless ones who have a crappy home life, with friends that don’t do anything about the warning signs. Yeah. THOSE families.
Yep. THAT’S what bothers me, and keeps me up at night, every time something like the Chardon, Ohio thing happens. As Joe Bob Briggs (the Drive-In Movie Theatre critic of Grapevine, Texas) says, “Without eternal vigilance, it could happen here.” And that is the problem. It CAN happen here – or anywhere. And there’s damn little you can do, as a parent, to keep it from happening to your child.
Prayer helps. At least it does for me. (Your results may vary. But I recommend it.) Teaching your kid to live in Condition Yellow is a modern-day necessity. (You’ll never convince me that things were like this when I was a kid. I don’t remember EVER hearing about some kid bringing a gun to school and shooting up the place. When I was in school, if a boy brought a rifle to school, it was for Show-n-Tell.) I hate that we live in a world where my young daughter has to be alert and aware of things like that at all times. But I don’t know what else to tell her that will help keep her safe.
So, life goes on. At least it does for those of us who didn’t get shot yesterday, by some kid who’s family should have paid more attention beforehand. And after the media frenzy dies down and cooler heads prevail, we’ll all lull ourselves back into a false sense of security, at least until the next time something like this happens. And then the cycle will start all over again.
Rinse. Lather. Repeat.