Friday, May 13, 2011

Target fixation

A timely article about rampage shootings on The Good Men Project website, written by Preston Moore (a lawyer-turned-minister...possibly the ultimate conversion).

I say timely because I just finished reading Dave Cullen's Columbine. After reading Tim Shepard's Project X, I realized that there was a lot I didn't know about Columbine aside from what was filtered through the media, which, given my general propensity for never, ever paying attention, was fairly little.

Cullen's Columbine could probably be summed us thusly: everything you think you know about Columbine is wrong.

There was no 'trench coat mafia,' and Eric Harris and Dylan Klebold weren't part of Columbine High's disaffected group of Goths anyway. Harris and Klebold weren't bullied or persecuted. The much-repeated tale of Cassie Bernall, who allegedly told Harris she believed in God before she was shot, never happened.

Columbine distills the information the Cullen spent ten years digging through - everything from interviews with the victims and their families, the boys' Basement Tapes, Dylan's journals, and the police records. What Cullen recorded ranged from banal to terrifying to very, very sad. Cullen is a solid writer, and very certain that his version is correct. He labels Harris as a textbook psychopath and Klebold as a suicidal depressive, towed along in Harris' wake (incidentally, Flake and Edwin of Shepard's Project X are, in retrospect, even more modeled on Harris and Klebold than I originally though, despite being younger and rather more sympathetic. Flake is the psychopathic Harris, Edwin the depressive Klebold.).

Cullen's attitude towards Harris and Klebold is rather cryptic - he seems almost condescending, particularly in his analysis of Klebold's journals, but also strangely protective, especially towards Klebold. Because Harris' parents refused to meet with Cullen (and, as of yet, have not spoken with anyone), there is more information about Klebold available, which may contribute to Cullen's more three-dimensional portrait of Klebold.

Particularly striking is Cullen's depiction of what happened to the victims, survivors, and their families in the decade after Columbine, from tragic to hopeful: a marriage, the suicide of one survivor's parent, the dissolution of the marriage of another pair of parents.

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