This week, we are confronted, at opposite poles of the country, with two very different tragedies. In Florida, we have the drawn-out legal battles of a life sustained beyond its wishes, and in Minnesota, we have the horror of–as the principal of Red Lake High School put it–”death out of season”.
First, will it do to say anything more about the Terri Schiavo case? Can I possibly highlight an aspect of this political farce, this media circus, this personal, private tragedy that has not already been discussed beyond all reasonable bounds? We’ve all been made quite aware of the constitutional trampling that occured at the disgrace of our Senate and Congress. Countless talking heads, bloggers, and columnists have drawn our attention to the fact that “Terri’s Law” contradicts 200 years of jurisprudence and states’ rights. Many have pointed out the hypocrisy of Shrub’s rushing to insert himself in this stranger’s cause despite having signed legislation while Texas governor that forcibly removes patients from life support who share Ms Schiavo’s condition. And I don’t think it’s necessary to highlight for anyone the fact that conservatives who oppose “special rights” for homosexuals themselves gave special rights to an individual citizen.
I’m also sure that by now we’ve all read about the memo that emerged from Senator Santorum’s office that called the Schiavo case “a great political issue” that would appeal to the Christian right, and about Senator DeLay’s comments that “God brought to us” Terri Schiavo to help the conservatives alter the morals of America.
I guess all that can be said at this point is to be sure to put your wishes in writing, because our goverment has demonstrated contempt for the rights of Power of Attorney, for the autonomy of state courts, and for the Constitution itself. They respect the laws of the land only when doing so achieves the result they want and will not hesitate for a moment to turn your personal, private tragedies into political manure.
Closer to home, a disturbed 17-year-old student went on a killing spree the other day, killing his grandparents, a school security guard, and several fellow students before turning the gun on himself. The facts are just beginning to emerge, one of the most incomprehensible being that an American Indian youth apparently embraced a white supremecist group.
Unfortunately, the comparisons with Columbine have already begun to emerge. It does appear that in at least one way, Weise consciously emulated the Columbine killers by asking at least one victim if they believed in God. (There’s just one catch: that never happened at Columbine.) He also liked to go around in a black trenchcoat–something many goths do–and wrote zombie stories.
My concern is that once again we’re going to see school systems attempt to deal with the problem by banning black clothing and punishing students for their creative writing. The true roots of teenage murder rampages are far more complicated and difficult than we as a society want to deal with. So we attack the symptoms rather than the cause. Wearing black does not cause a kid to pick up a gun. Violent fiction is not necessarily a blueprint.
A lot of teenagers write fiction about zombies. Anyone who has endured the public school system knows that it’s the perfect metaphore for how most kids feel. There’s a reason that the Pink Floyd movie, The Wall shows faceless, identically-dressed students riding a conveyor belt into a giant meat grinder. Our school system is about stipping identity and programming kids’ brains with identical sets of facts that can be easily regurgitated during the No Child Left Behind-required standards tests.
At both Columbine and Red Lake, students were reading Shakespeare at the time of the attacks. By measures used in the past, Shakespeare ought to be banned because it causes kids to get shot.