The whole point of free speech is not to make ideas exempt from criticism but to expose them to it.

Tuesday, February 28, 2012


Yesterday a 17-year-old boy apparently killed three students and wounded two others, with ten shots from a .22 pistol, at a school somewhere in Ohio.

There are no reasons I will publish that will make you believe I have a clue here, but I think I do. I think I understand the sort of detachment from reality that allows one to take a step beyond consideration of the possibility of shooting a person or a bunch of people (the motives are usually less specific when one considers a group).

The New York Times has a story that includes some possibly-illuminating facts.

A couple of incidents in my life, far less serious than "aggravated murder," could easily have gone either way, and had they gone the wrong way, would have profoundly influenced what would have become my current situation.

One morning, T. J. Lane is a fairly typical teenager, with significant anger at what he has to put up with. The next morning, he's killed some people, and the rest of his life is more or less ordained. What has gone on in that boy's mind in a 24-hour period is probably a best-seller if it were put between covers.

I'll go out on a limb and say that most of us have thought that our world would be better off if somebody we know no longer afflicted it. Most of us have gone only as far as thinking how inconvenient it would be to actually have to go to the sonafabitch's house to shoot him, let alone to go to the trouble of trying not to get caught. In the end, most of us decided to have a cocktail and watch some TV.

What was the cost/benefit analysis that T. J. Lane ran in his head during the hours leading up to his action?


taco said...

Kids go crazy sometime, just like deer who break through the windows of McDonald's and tear shit up. I don't get it at all.

repete said...

It can be hard to see the bigger world at that age when hormones and everything else kicks in. Kid must have felt as if his world had already ended.

Bob Newland said...

well, it sure has ended now.

larry kurtz said...

Or dolphins beaching themselves, for that matter. Interesting story in the Indy.

D.E. Bishop said...

My best friend grew up in Milbank. She would not miss a high school reunion for anything! She loves them.

I've never attended one of mine and I have no desire to. There is no one there with whom I'd talk about our fun times - because I had so few. I was an isolated, poor country girl.

I have NO desire to shoot any of my former classmates, though a few were cruel. But I can understand how a teenager could do what that boy did. Perhaps school for him was just a misery to get through, until the day came when he felt he could no longer get through it.

I had a goal, and I believe that is the reason for my success in high school. (And I am smart, so it wasn't very hard.) I wanted to go to college so that I could get out of there. School was a means to an end, that was all.

Brain development in teenagers is still several years from complete. In the meantime, they have very little perspective. The present is all they know, and most of them can't work it out on their own. That's why wise, supportive adults are so important.

Teenagers need to be told, repeatedly, that there is hope, that it will get better, that their current circumstances are temporary.

I'm guessing the shooter found little emphathetic support.

Then there is also the individuality of all of us. Perhaps such support would not have changed his behavior.

It's so damn tragic!

BF said...

If my math is right, the kid's dad was arrested and went to prison for 9 months for attempted murder. Prior to that, his mom had a restraining order on the dad so presumably he and the buy were separated.

I think I see what you might be getting at, Bob.

Put it this way. Our previous president did roughly the same thing on a national scale to finish the job his daddy started. In the far recesses of an abandoned child's mind, it all makes sense somehow.

The recent movie "Black Swan" also comes to mind.

BF said...

...forgot the math part. The abandoned child was 6 or seven years old.

larry kurtz said...

She's gorgeous, Bill.