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My Opinion
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One of things I'm regularly asked about is my opinion of this event. This used to surprise me as I think of this site as an encyclopedia and information archive. Reference for research. Good reference materials don't include opinions--just facts. So, I've tried to keep my personal thoughts out of the content as much as possible. Since I've been asked so often, however, I decided to include this page as a brief summary of the conclusions I've reached over the years.

First, let me say that I believe that there are only a few circumstances that warrant the killing of another human being. In a life-or-death situation, I feel a person should do whatever they can to in order to survive. Defending one's family from a violent home invader is a moment where lethal force would be acceptable.

Murder that's spawned as an act of revenge against society born out of "I'm mad as hell and I'm not gonna take it anymore" is not okay. Trying to punish "the world" by shooting into or bombing a crowd of people in a mundane setting is never a solution, or even vengeance. It's spreading victimization to people who, in most cases, had nothing to do with whatever upset their assailant. There is little difference between a school shooter, a club shooter, and one of the terrorists who attacked the World Trade Center. They all have the same general justification for hurting and killing a bunch of people they don't even know.

But I also feel that the public school system is badly flawed, particularly in the United States. Our educational system started with a lone school marm or master teaching a single classroom with a handful of students of various ages. Every child had individual attention and lessons specific to their level and ability. Parents were much more involved in the process. Over the years, schooling has grown into a massive institute with little personal involvement unless a student is troubled and actively seeks assistance. Arts and culture have been pushed out, stripped from the budget in favor of emphasizing programs that net the schools more money, such as sports. Tests have been skewed to move more students along, classes have been genercized into pass-fail taught by teachers who are given more students than they can possibly handle, at a payscale that doesn't match the amount of stress they're under.

I have long felt things should be changed in the school system, starting with when I was a child in school myself. Many schools feel a lot like prison: It's an environment you have to be in that's filled with gang-like cliques and unsympathetic wardens. Fear and need for acceptance drives many students and staff alike. No one should fear or hate the place where they have to spend most of their waking hours. However, "kickstarting a revolution" by murdering a bunch of people and then committing suicide doesn't solve anything.

Dylan and Eric had their reasons for being so off the deep end that they could bring themselves to gun down other people, ones they knew and ones they didn't. So do other mass murderers. Those complex reasons are woven into the tapestry that makes up their individual histories and personalities, and will largely be overlooked or ignored because most don't care about what made a person go Dark Side. It's easier to label this type of person a monster and get on with grieving than it is to face what our society has belched up onto itself through improper medication, under-regulated media, overstimulation, mixed social messages, and turning a blind eye to problematic situations and people.

In my opinion, the heart of this matter is school. It's a common ground that the majority of educated people have with the next person, an experience that is surprisingly similar the world over regardless of location. Almost everyone who has attended school has had negative experiences there at some time. They felt alone, bullied, left out, humiliated, misunderstood, or scared. Most have witnessed violence between other students or have been a direct part of it. We have all known kids just like Dylan and Eric and their victims. Most people can relate to at least one person who died in this tragic event. And most of us can picture all too clearly what it might've been like to be there either as a victim, a survivor, or a shooter.

I've been asked often what I think about the gunmen themselves. That's a complex answer that I'll try to sum up as best as I can. Essentially, I think they were fairly typical of smart, middle-class boys in their late teens growing up in the area that they were. I lived in an area similar to Littleton in my youth, and I knew guys just like them when I was a teen. Based on wha they wrote about in their private journals, Dylan struggled with low self-esteem and depression over common matters that plague most teens: Crushes, loss of friends, not having a romantic partner, feeling alone and underappreciated, not feeling like they're living up to their potential. Eric had issues with anger and resented the world at large for creating and then rejecting him. He had health problems when he was younger that likely affected his self-image, leading him to develop a God complex to compensate. Both, I believe, felt ignored by their parents who thought it safe to coast on supervision because they trusted their "good sons".

Theirs was a toxic friendship. When they were together, they were accepted and appreciated. Reality was theirs to determine. They could do what most disaffected anarchy-bent teens used to just joke about when they were pissed off at the establishment. They spent too much time play-acting their fantasies in games and on video, dressing the part and playing with real guns and explosives like they were toys. Their antisocial behavior drove off the friends they had who weren't into those things, furthering the echo chamber they had built. They wove a narrative that the world was guilty of not treating them like the gods they were, and they were going to punish it.

But that's just it: Other people have felt just like the shooters. Heck, from grade school many of us used to sing songs like:

Glory, glory! Hallelujah! Teacher hit me with the ruler. I met her at the door with a loaded .44 now she don't teach no more.

I've heard people in their 70s sing worse anti-school songs. Kids today have their own horrible memes and songs they sing when the teacher isn't listening. What Klebold and Harris expressed wasn't unique. Even the act of shooting people at school wasn't unprecedented (research "I don't like Mondays" by the Boomtown Rats for just one retro example). What set the Columbine shooters apart was the manner in which they carried out their assault, and how far in advance they planned it. The detail and practice they put into forging their dream of retribution has put a bright, ugly spotlight on just how long some kids deal with being truly unhappy at school for reasons that have nothing to do with their grades.

When I rewatched the film Falling Down (starring Michael Douglas), I realized I was watching Eric and Dylan. I'd seen the movie before the Columbine shootings and hadn't thought about it much until I saw it again. In the movie, the main character is named is Bill but is listed in the credits as D-FENS, the same name as what appears on the character's license plate (side note: Brooks Brown's internet handle was D-FENS for the longest time). The film starts with D-FENS stuck in traffic in his overheating car. It's the middle of summer and his air conditioner isn't working. It's a situation many of us can relate to. Pressure builds as he sits there. He finally abandons his car in the traffic jam and just walks away.

From there the man, who looks like any 40-something Average Joe, begins a cross-town trek during which he faces armed gang members, homeless grifters, discrimination, immigration issues, corporate red tape, and more. In every instance we can see facets of our own lives and the things that annoy us most about living with other people. D-FENS reacts in ways that normal Joes won't or can't, but often fantasize about: He beats up the gang members when they threaten and humiliate him. He terrorizes a Nazi-worshipping bigot. He rages at a fast food worker who puts store policy over customer satisfaction. He is power to the common man. He's standing up for himself against problems that, realistically, most people would just put up with.

That was Dylan and Eric's mentality. Even more interesting to me was that as D-FENS acquires weapons, two of the guns he uses are a sawed-off shotgun and an TEC-DC9--two of the weapons the shooters used during their assault on Columbine High.

I suppose at the heart of my thoughts is the belief that it's important to remember what happened at Columbine, in the hope of preventing something like it happening again. Until we understand what drove these two teens to commit mass murder and suicide, we'll never be able to say that we're prepared for the eventuality that something like it or worse could happen.