There Were No Monsters at Columbine

By Jackie Augustine

Time Magazine has portrayed these boys as monsters, other journalists have called them 'psychopaths' or 'deranged'. By portraying these two boys as such, they are perpetuating the incorrect assumption that these boys were somehow less than human and what they did was inconceivable and without explanation.

While I find the killings abhorrent, I do not view the killers as monsters. Every day at every school someone retaliates against what is regarded as 'normal' teenage patterns of harrassment. In different cities and different communities people are regularly beaten and/or killed as the result of insulting or ostracizing another. Why are we so shocked when it happens in an upper class white neighborhood?

We should be searching for an answer to this crisis of inhumanity rather than taking out our rage on the front pages of prominent print media!

This was a preventable crime! And we need to understand what really caused this in order prevent future attacks on our children.

'So', you ask, 'what is the solution?' Well, believe it or not it has been right in front of us, imbedded in the articles about Columbine. The teachers participated in the harassment of these students who didn't conform. One athlete says he knows he was hated because he belonged to the 'social elite'. People knew of instances where bottles had been thrown from moving cars *at* these kids. What was done about it? Absolutely nothing. No one stood up for these kids because everyone thought it was their own fault. It was believed that they could easily end their harassment by conforming to the social norm. Somehow their individuality was seen as an invitation to insults and attacks.

It is our duty as a society, as parents, as administrators, as teachers, and as individuals, to respect each person for who he/she is. This includes those who 'fit in' as well as those who 'stick out'.

What those two boys did can in no way be justified. But we must remember that they *were* human and they were just boys. They did what boys do when they are pushed--they pushed back. While their reaction was completely inappropriate and wrong, it cannot be said that retaliation was unexpected (though, who could have anticipated this form of retaliation?).

We need to stop the pushing. *That* is the answer. It is wrong to blame the music because that is only an influence, not a directive. It is wrong to blame the 'goth' culture because clothing is purchased at stores, not the gates of hell--there is nothing personality-altering inherent in them. It is most grievously wrong to label these kids 'monsters' because there is nothing unique to them which caused their actions. The perpetrator is human nature coupled with undue stresses.

Let's work towards taking these burdens off of the backs of our children.

Jacqueline Augustine is in the Department of Philosophy, Hobart and William Smith Colleges.