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Monday, 17 December 2012

We should remember victims, not perpetrators

I was going to do a post on my team Christmas party, which involved laser quest, my tripping over my own two feet, and the best Long Island Iced Tea I've ever had.

This happened Friday night. On Friday afternoon, at work, I saw brief glimpse of a school shooting in the USA, and my first reaction was  'Another one? Sheesh!'  Saturday I crawled out of bed and saw that it was so much worse.

See, the problem is that we are used to high school shootings happening in the USA now.  It seems like every year or so a kid picks up a weapon and decides it's time for payback, and marches into his (or her, but interestingly enough most of these involve young males) high school and shoots the hell out of everything he can find. Then you get talking heads rounded up by the media for their fifteen minutes of fame, and hysterical finger-pointing at everything from movies to video games to music to books to gun legislation, all of which ignore the fact that what it boils down to is someone losing their shit, and deciding to take a bunch of people with them. If you're going to die, might as well be famous, right?

What happened Friday is worse for a couple of reasons. The majority of the victims were small children, and as a species we're hardwired to protect them. (I'm not counting the aberrations of sexual predators or abusers in this.) We protect our young. Simple. End of.
So when a man forces his way into a place where they should be safe, and opens fire with a rifle, every rational person reacts with horror and outrage. (Westboro Baptist Church doesn't count. There is no rationality there, just bile and darkness.)

The guy that did this on Friday didn't even have the dim excuse of revenge on his peers. There were no cheerleaders laughing at him for asking them out on a date; no jocks giving him wedgies in passing in the halls.
I have no idea what the motivation was. Until it is found, discovered, and released, anything regarding that side of things is speculation.

The media have never acknowledged their part in creating this celebrity killer culture. But on Saturday, there were reporters shoving cameras and microphones into the faces of kids that had just been led out of a killing field. Every tear lovingly focussed on by the camera, every bewildered look recorded.
There were media pages devoted to celebrity tweets about the incident. There were interviews with profilers, shrinks, and anyone who could be loosely associated with any of the speculation around what had happened - and this was Saturday, well before the coroner had finished his heartbreaking work, long before the crime-scene teams had left the school.  Every news cast, every web page, mentioned the shooter by name and age, before his ID had even been confirmed.
They've released the names and ages of the victims, but I doubt in 6 months time anyone who didn't live in that town or didn't know them personally will remember who they were. The name of the shooter (which I'm not typing here. Just. Not.) will be remembered for years.

The finger pointing and speculation and misinformation started Saturday. I imagine it will only get worse over the next few weeks. What will be in very short supply is common sense and rationality; emotive perspectives are rarely crippled by either.

News stations will look at the music he liked. If it was metal or hard rock, they'll get at least another trashy headline out of it. If he liked violent PC or video games (and someone please show me an interactive game aimed at over ten year olds that doesn't involve violence), they'll get another few rounds of professional talking heads on. If the guy liked fantasy RPG or anything like that, I imagine the conservative channels will have a collective orgasm talking about family values and Our Deteriorating Society.

And they will all miss the point.

If the shooter was mentally ill, and previously diagnosed (not always as easy as it sounds), then you have 28 people dead because of gaps in a chronically unstable health system.

If he was not mentally ill, then the only blame falls on the person who planned this. The guy who picked up three different guns, a whole bunch of ammunition, and strapped on a ballistics vest. The one who forced his way into an elementary school and started firing.

There is a lot of talk about gun control again. There always is after one of these. The problem is, humans are very, very good at killing. They banned handguns in the UK after a similar massacre in a primary school in Dunblane in 1996. It means that most guns are now carried by armed police and very dangerous criminals. Then they banned carrying knives because there was spike in knife assaults. The problem is, people are still killing each other. Kids are still killing kids.  In the past couple of years in the UK, there have been mass stabbing attacks, assaults with bats, pipes, automobiles and bombing attempts.

Tighter gun control will probably be a good thing, if the USA can figure out how to make it uniform, and legislate it properly. Since every state has different legislation on gun control, how that could be effectively implemented is a different story, especially when politicians will seize the opportunity to oppose anything proposed by a different party or outside influence.

I don't have a solution to this, and I've got no horse in this race - my friends in the USA are safe, my family is nowhere near there, and I don't live there. But for what it's worth, I have a couple of observations.
We are a species that thrives on conflict. We demand it in our entertainment, from books, to comics to movies to theatre. Our media gorges on it. Our politicians revel in it. But worse than that, we find excuses for it. We blame exposure to violent games and t.v. shows for "influencing" the guys that pick up weapons and start using them on others who can't defend themselves, instead of stepping back and realising that most of the time they made that choice. They planned it, they dressed for it, they chose to pick up a weapon and use it on the targets they selected.

Whatever the fall out is from this, the accountability belongs to the shooter. Feeding the desire for fame - or infamy - by remembering his name over those that died? That belongs to the rest of us.