Thursday, October 05, 2006

Copycats Imitate

More thoughts from a mountain state...

Can we root out school violence?

Daily Inter Lake, Montana - Oct 5, 2006

Children used as human targets in their schools — it’s the worst news a community could imagine hearing.
Three times in the past week, in Colorado and Wisconsin and Pennsylvania, communities have reeled with gunshots and death in their schools. Instead of studying history, students have witnessed it in the most tragic way possible.
Part of the agony is that the shootings seem so random. Who would target little girls in a one-room Amish schoolhouse?
Surely, the answer is no more clear than who would strap on a bomb and blow himself up in a busy marketplace in Baghdad or Amman. Terrorism is the institutionalization of random violence, and this epidemic of school violence is really nothing more than a form of private, idiosyncratic terrorism.
The purpose of such attacks is almost unfathomable to a sane mind, but to the sick individuals who wage these private wars, there is a hard, cruel logic that leads inevitably to death. It might have started with some personal trauma, or it might have started innocently.
In some case, the seeds of violence may even be planted by a society that values action movies on the basis of their body counts and which condones video games dedicated to gunning down cops and innocent civilians. Parents who allow their children to ingest such brain food should not be surprised if the “garbage in, garbage out” principle rears its ugly head later in life. If we teach our children that human life is of no consequence, then it follows that some children will take the lesson to heart.
There is also the influence of cable news to be accounted for, as wall-to-wall coverage of shootings and murder could easily sway sick minds to think of killers as culture heroes. Indeed, researcher Loren Coleman believes copycats imitate previous violent attacks on a regular basis. He says school attacks follow a pattern after a media event in a day, a week, two weeks, a month, a year, or 10 years. “Vulnerable humans have internal media clocks,” he maintains.
Coleman names Oct. 11-13 as a “dangerous hot window” for a next wave of shootings, along with Oct. 27-29. Who knows? Maybe nothing will happen then, but we can be sure that more school shootings will follow at some point and that more communities will be devastated.
Since the deadly shooting at Columbine High School in Littleton, Colo., in 1999, schools have worked to minimize bullying and ostracizing of students who didn’t fit in, as the two teenage killers in Columbine were described as outcasts.
But there is no easy antidote for whatever festers inside the souls of people like Charles Roberts, 32, who took little girls and a teacher’s aide hostage on Monday, bound them and shot them execution-style before killing himself in Pennsylvania. He, like many other school killers, was an outsider, not a student, and we will never be able to build adequate defenses against all such attacks in all possible locations.
Still, as a society we ought not to surrender to this wave of senseless violence either. That is why it is appropriate for President Bush to assemble a summit on school violence, although critics will probably belittle him for thinking that a summit can change anything.
To those critics we say, believing you can make a difference is the first step to making a difference. Whereas believing that action is pointless and that our problems are beyond solution is the beginning of the kind of despair that eventually leads people to suicidal attacks in the first place.
Yes, we had better pay attention to the horror, and we had better not surrender to it.

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