I was watching intervention today. They did one on this ex-columbine student who apparently wound up on the white hat list (which has since been claimed to have been an urban legend) This kid came away from a terrible trauma and the only way he could keep the memories quiet was to drug them out of existence.
I get that. I mean.. I kind of get that. i have never experienced a school shooting. I have never myself held a gun to anybody’s head.
But I have had one held to my head.
I would like to pepper you with the details of a dramatic story – preferably one with international espionage where I emerged the clear and present victor, maybe clad in an LBD and armed with a sweet catch phrase. I suppose sometimes I like to think (You know.. if i had been cooler) that my catch phrase would have been something like “You just checked out”. The whole thing took place in a cheap motel room. It would have been appropriate. Hell, it would have been the stuff great movies are made of.
But that would be a lie. The truth is.. I had a gun held to my head once because I tried to take something away from somebody. The person overreacted. It is the oldest and most mediocre story in the calendar. Just with guns. It is the stupidest story ever told. In fact, I’d go as far as to say it’s the story that is never told. Because this kind of thing happens every day. Just not to writers. It is the nexus of where foolishness meets thoughtlessness. And, at least for today, it is a story that I would rather not tell. I had no fancy catch phrase. As far as I can recall, I begged for my life, like any other fool would have done. I cried. I blew snot everywhere. Mostly all over myself. I kept that snot-covered t-shirt for about four years. Never washed it.
I finally burned it. And that was probably the most dramatic moment of the entire story. Because with that shirt, I burned my whole life. It was my baptism by fire. It was the day I decided that the past was dead. The future was now. And the present was the only opportunity I had to let the dead lie dead. This wasn’t a story that made me stronger. I wasn’t kidnapped for being awesome, for standing up for my vague and mutable beliefs or for trying to help my fellow man. I did something selfish and despicable and almost paid the debt with my life. This was a sad, washed-up story of two assholes in a room together. Nothing more. Or less.
It is unlikely my aggressor would even recognize me today. I mean Jesus.. I barely recognize myself and for that I am eternally grateful. Truth be told and for all intents and purposes, every single protagonist and antagonist in that story has died. They did not die a hero’s death or a villain’s death. They did not go supernova in the writer’s wet dream of a great ball of fire. They simply faded away and became nothing. That day, from beginning to end, simply ceased to exist as a reality and became an anecdote that would wait in the wings until I was ready to tell it.
I am still not ready to tell it.
And yet, I still dream of it. I think about it. I still shudder when I see a firearm. That little girl still looks at me, when I lobby against gun control, and says “If i weren’t long dead and gone, I’d slap the living fuck out of you. Guns are bad, right? Right? We hate guns, don’t we? I mean.. aren’t you still scared?? Did I almost die for nothing?”
I don’t know what to tell her.
The only thing noteworthy about any of this is that this, this moment right now, is the first time I have ever talked about it. Before today, I never told anybody that somebody almost put a bullet in my head. I have never reached out to friends, family, counselors. I don’t have any fancy names for it. PTSD.. shoot. To me, that’s just medical-speak for “I got help and feel empowered because I can now use a genuine and documented acronym as a badge for all my subsequent lack of coping skills.”
I’m not saying there is no such thing as shell-shock. Quite the opposite. It is very real. It is prominent and stands out like a pulled muscle. It’s a tiny part of your anatomy and yet it’s all you can think about. You never realize how much you use a muscle until you pull it. And then every moment reminds you of what you did. Of what happened to you. Moreso for those who aren’t in the business of pulling muscles. I wasn’t in the business of pulling muscles. I wasn’t a gang banger. I didn’t run with addicts or fall in love with sociopaths or wind up on a tour of duty in Iraq. I was in the wrong place at exactly the right time. People like that.. we’re not used to having guns held to our heads. I had no strategy in my lexicon of coping skills to overcome what had happened to me. Being in a shitty motel room facing the barrel of a pistol was never part of a normal day for me. There is no way to rationalize something like that. There is no way to trick yourself into making something like that a part of normal life experience.
I think to some extent my mind still refuses to acknowledge it even happened at all.
And yet the dreams keep coming.
But my point is not to talk about a fury-crazed person holding a gun (a pistol, actually) to my fool head. That isn’t the point of any of this. My point is that even after all the miles, the years, the fire, I am no stranger to spending late nights awake. The person who tried to hurt me is long gone. It is the person living inside me I don’t trust because she was a very, very selfish individual and always had a way of getting what she wanted. I am afraid of her finding me again. I am afraid of her coming back. Sometimes I see her out of the corner of my eye, peeking at me when she thinks i’m not looking. And I suppose that’s why I don’t want to get over the trauma of that day because you guys? That trauma keeps her away. It keeps her submissively hiding in the shadows, afraid to come out. We live in the society of others in spite of our OWN faults, not theirs. We create our own realities. At least in this country. And the fact that I wound up with a gun pointed at me does not deify me. I am not so delusional as to nail myself to a cross. I did the wrong thing, at the wrong time to the wrong person.
So to make a short story long, yeah. Ok? I get it.
Because I never told anybody about it, I never got help. I buried it. Deep within the depths of who I am today. I never learned to live with a near-death experience. I learned, painfully in some cases, to simply live around it. When I examine my life today, I feel like I have done this successfully.
And yet the dreams keep coming.
Yesterday I became somebody’s fiancee. Somebody who has no idea that once, long ago, in a dismal room in the middle of nowhere, a crazy person with a gun tried to kill me. I love him but I haven’t told him. Or perhaps, more accurately, it’s BECAUSE I love him that I haven’t told him.
For someone who claims she is here to talk about Columbine, the abstract, and not her own personal experience with having a gun shoved up her eye socket, I feel like I have ignored the actual issue for long enough. I saw this video on youtube and even though it was a random episode of intervention, naturally everyone in the comments area wanted to talk about Columbine. At first I had tried to avoid the comments section because i mean, duh. I saw that coming. But trauma has a funny way of making a fella both wise and arrogant at the same time. At first I didn’t look at the comments. Not at first. But over the next couple of days, I found myself drifting back to that video, again and again. I would watch it and rewatch it.. convincing myself that I had no interest in reading the comments until I had no other excuse for being there and decided it was as good a time as any to scroll down.
Know this right now. There are two situations that a person can NEVER understand fully until they’ve been there. Having a gun held to their head. And holding a gun to someone else’s head. And as I had suspected, all manner of people with zero experience with either one of these anomalies had an opinion and had openly, and vocally shared it.
Surprisingly, it came in at about 50/50. 50% of people identified with the victims, their families and friends, the kids in the school. I actually expected that number to be higher but (and i read all the comments and, like the geek I am, did the math) only about half the comments expressed any sort of anger toward the shooters. The other 50% were on the side of the shooters. Saying that they were bullied, tormented, terrorized and tortured and expressing complete and objective empathy (yes, such a thing exists) for a person who would want, and try, to kill someone like that.
At first, I wasn’t going to say anything. I mean, who am I to say anything? Who was I to even be reading the comments on this video? Who was I to feel that I had any jurisdiction here? Someone who has been at the receiving end of a gun? Lots of people have been where I had been that day and have come out the other side of it no worse for the wear but no better either. Who never learn, who never grow and continue to find themselves at the edge of existence, over and over again
But honestly.. I was tired of people going on an on about the “Mystery” of columbine. There is no mystery. There is no victim and there is no predator. There is, quite simply, no one to blame. I was alive. Alive and aware. Aware of the danger of wrath. Aware of the danger of complacency. Aware of the arrogance of victimization and aware of the pain that we cause people when we don’t even realize we do it. Aware of how, a lot of the time, we don’t even realize that when we do harm to another human being, we are doing harm to another human being.
And, over a series of character-limited comments, and well against my better judgment, I wrote this.
I can’t say which side of that whole columbine thing is stupider.. the shooters or the targets. Maybe everyone was stupid when it came to Columbine. Maybe that’s the whole point of what we’re supposed to take away from this. Lord knows no one ever will because most people are too emotional to realize that sometimes there is no one to really blame, in the grand scheme of things.
If you fuck with someone, eventually, they’ll fuck back. That’s a fact of life no matter who you’re picking on. They WILL get, or at least try to get, their revenge. And probably at the moment when you don’t see it coming. And they WILL fuck back harder probably than you originally fucked with them. Shit has a way of building up quickly. And then you’ll stand there, crying.. bewildered, not sure what happened exactly but knowing deep down that, yeah.. you were sort of partially to blame. That if you hadn’t been a giant dick or stayed quiet when giant dicks were fucking pussies left and right, there would have been that much less motivation for them to target anyone, especially not you. That bullies expect their targets to just take the abuse without question is a fatal mistake.
Of course, where do you draw the line? Do you shoot someone who tries to kill you? Do you shoot someone who constantly batters and assaults you? If someone calls you a fag for three years straight, is shooting them an acceptable reaction? Do you gun down the guy who gave that great job to someone else? Do you shoot your wife and kids because they talked back? Are there no other acceptable coping skills in your lexicon? No punishment that fits a transgression against you other than murder?
Life is full of assholes. You can’t kill them all. You don’t want to. You really don’t.
Owell.. the good thing is, everyone just blamed Marilyn Manson and went on with their lives. By the saving grace of monumental stupidity and shortsightedness, a group of people has once again silenced their consciences with regards to any possible wrongdoing on their part.
The fact that anyone finds columbine a mystery at all is himself monumentally stupid and shortsighted. They’ve pumped so much money into finding out why, Why, WHY.. when the answer is clear. Its just.. accepting that answer means accepting that neither those two boys, nor their tormentors, nor violent music, video games, tv, movies… are entirely to blame here. That the bullies aren’t entirely to blame. That no one is entirely to blame. That everyone is entirely to blame.
i know a girl who was bullied in high school. Severely. She decided when the time was right, she would exact her revenge. She waited many, many years until finally she found her old nemesis’s Achilles heel.. Her revenge was to sleep with, and become the mistress of, the husband of her former bully. She successfully destroyed her old bully’s life. (Who has since become a raging alcoholic) but she also destroyed the lives of her spouse (who is not entirely without fault himself) and their two children who are clearly at no fault.
She didn’t make this distinction. She saw a unit of people that had sprung up out of a wellspring of evil. She sought, consciously sought, to destroy them all, to purge two generations of torment.
Who’s the bad guy here? Both? Neither? There is no answer. But to this victim of many years ago, that day was HER day of reckoning. HER Columbine. It was her chance to wield the gun on her tormentor and to harm her so profoundly that not only her, but anyone who supported her right to happiness, would suffer strong and swift consequence. Part of me thinks “What a stinker” and chuckles to hide that i’m a little proud of her. Part of me finds her disgusting and petty and wants nothing more to do with her.
So.. its hard to say, isn’t it? I mean.. it’s not easy. Especially when you see people who have gone through hardship and as a result, show extreme gratitude to the important things in their lives. I mean not once did those two kids say to themselves “If those idiots liked us, we NEVER would have become friends with each other”.
A lot of people don’t see the good in being tormented by idiots. But the reality is that an idiot doles out one hell of a first-class education. You owe idiots for making their idiocy clear to you. You owe them for showing you the kindness of being such an obvious predator. You owe them for being a sort of matrix of what makes people suck. So the only people left are people who probably don’t suck, or at least suck in a way that is tolerable to your own personal compass of sucking. You would never have found them in a mess of that idiot friendship stock exchange called Being Popular. I would think you dodged a bullet, no pun intended.
The second you decide to murder, all bets are off. The second you decide to take a person’s life from them is the second you consciously decide that you no longer wish to be heard.
What happened to those two boys is inexcusable. But the second they pulled the trigger, an entire generation of tormentors because a generation of victims. And two boys who desperately deserved help became mass murderers. Kids today that are tormented cannot even TALK about how angry it makes them without being seen as criminal-level mental-health risks. Anger, in any form, has become unacceptable. In order for a bullied child to be heard, he or she must use the art of pathos, to give up his or her dignity. The first angry outburst will classify that child in the Harris/Klebold spectrum.
The trendy reaction to bullying now is to turn that violence inward. To cut, to become addicted. To commit suicide. The second that a bullied child tries to, God fucking forbid, turn the tables on their psychotic tormentors is the second that child feels the swift and cold wrath of justice. Thanks to the events of this monumentally stupid day, the only voice a bullied child has is the voice of a pathetic victim. Any other voice, ANY other voice, is the voice of a mentally unstable predator.
This is what OUR stupidity has done to OUR kids
This is how history will choose to remember. This stupid day at this stupid school has created a pop culture pigeonhole that states, quite clearly, that the profile of a bullied child is either pathetically meek or completely psychotic.
What happened that day was all for nothing. Nobody learned anything. Not a goddamn thing.