The Columbine massacre in Colorado has been on my mind – and probably yours as well. It’s very troubling on any number of levels.

First, kids preying on kids just goes against the way things should be. (Not that it’s any better when adults prey on kids, as the school bombing in Bath, MI in May 1927, demonstrated.) But kids are supposed to be innocent, trouble-free, fun loving – not scheming killers.

Second, the suburbs are supposed to be safe. That’s part of the reason so many white folk (and nonwhites with the money to do so) live there, to be away from the people we equate with crime.

Third, we like to think the human race is getting better. That means we should put aside racism and hatred. The massacre flies in the face of notions of human progress.

Fourth, it shows a low respect for the law. At least two of the four guns used were obtained illegally. Building pipe bombs is simply illegal, as is murder.

Fifth, it shows a low regard for life. For some, life is sacred. For others, something that can be taken away with a gun or bomb.

This isn’t about computers, the Internet, or even violent games. This is about a breakdown in the moral makeup of the United States.

We could argue that Americans have resorted to violence since the Revolution, but it goes back further than that. We used our superior weapons to take much of this land from its natives. And before that, we used guns to settle our national differences in Europe.

Violence has been part of human nature since the beginning. Kill or be killed, whether it’s your dinner, a marauding animal, or someone who wants something you have. We even sanction the taking of human life in cases of self defense or for the public benefit (i.e., the death penalty).

Part of the culture of violence is viewing your enemy as less than fully human: inhuman, subhuman, evil, degenerate, or simply eager to take what’s yours.

Of course, there are two sides to the story. The one we’ve all heard is about the way these two outcasts “got even” by killing and wounding classmates and teachers.

But why did they feel the need to resort to violence?

Quite simply, because they had been made the enemy by the insiders at school. A lot of us went through school being picked on for our looks, our brains, our bodies, our lack of coordination, our style of dress, our accent, our personal quirks, etc.

As some forums at Slashdot have pointed out, it’s the norm for geeks and nerds to be picked on in high school. And it’s not uncommon for us to wish the worst for those who torment us, although we rarely act on those desires.

Our society glorifies winning at any cost. For some, that means they achieve popularity by joining the in crowd and picking on the outsiders, driving them further away. Outsiders tend to clump together, as in the Trenchcoat Mafia. We need a place that accepts us as different – and doesn’t judge us as inferior simply because we are different.

Frankly, I don’t know what happens to the majority of jocks, cheerleaders, and other popular students after high school. I’ve never been part of that crowd.

I know the nerds go on to get jobs that use their skills and accept them. One of them grew up to run Apple computer twice. Another built Microsoft.

There are ways to survive the abuse of high school, accept your uniqueness, and run with it. You may or may not become a billionaire, a computer geek, an engineer, or anything else that the world applauds – but you have to become yourself.

For me, that’s a Macintosh guru, network administrator, webmaster, husband, father, son, and brother.

Who are you becoming?

Keywords: #columbine #terrorism

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