Friday, October 25, 2013

Non-Review: High School Shootings Revival

With the release last week of Carrie, the new adaptation of Stephen King's 1974 horror novel, one thinks a bit about the edges of revenge and the atmosphere that creates the need for a student to exact revenge.  Earlier this week, I looked at The Final through the lens of the documentary of Murder By Proxy: How America Went Postal, and attempted to contextualize the atmosphere that breeds the need for bloody torturous revenge.

This week, we've seen yet a rash of real life high school violence, or pre-emptive response to violence.

The first incident this week was out of Nevada, where a 7th grader (a 12-year-old) had a gun, and show two other students and his math teacher before killing himself. Early reports speculate that this happened after bullying, with the shooter saying, "Why are you laughing at me? Why are you doing this to me?"

The second happened in Washington, where another 7th grader (this time, an 11-year-old) brought kitchen knives, a gun, and 400 rounds of ammo to school with the intent of killing his and his friends' tormentors (but was arrested before the violence could happen). The incident that set him off?  His friend being called "gay."

The echoes of Carrie are especially strong in the Nevada case.  The climax (spoilers for a 39 year old novel?) of the original Carrie had the echoes of Mrs. White saying "They're all gonna laugh at you." constantly repeating in Carrie's head just before she set the high school prom on fire.

When I wrote about The Final last week, it was obviously before either of these incidents had happened, but it was long after the United States had experienced school shootings.  I really, REALLY, do not condone the violence that has happened.  I don't believe I can emphasize that enough. The violence that happens on school yards is not acceptable.

Like workplace violence, I'm not entirely sure that these incidents are preventable. Yes, you have a great mother in Washington who was able to suss out what her son was thinking of doing before he actually hurt somebody, but an important point is I think that we can actually do more to prevent people from getting to that place.

I hate to be all nanny and shit, but middle school is a brutal brutal place where kids are tested over and over and over again by their peers, even as they're also testing themselves. Welcome to the Dollhouse is still an impressive film for being slightly stylized, but feels just as brutal as middle school actually was. For many, middle school was perhaps a rougher experience than high school as people seemed to be founding friendships through rescue poles as much as through olive branches.  Alliances were forms as much through liking each other as through barbed wire against everybody else.

In this sense, look at many of the incidents of workplace violence.  They are very targeted.  Many try to shoot the ones they like, and target the "oppressors". And, in both of these incidents, we are dealing with bullying and either targeted violence, or probably targeted violence. One of the ways to prevent this violence is to try to stem the source of the fuel.

Bullying needs to be stemmed and punished.  I hate saying that, but one of the key feelings to workplace violence is a feeling of helplessness.  If the students think that their bullies are not getting punished fairly, they have a higher likeliness to think about violence. It's not as easy as all that, but it would be a step in the right direction.

The other step is a sense of escape and endurance.  The It Gets Better project is a great resource for gay and lesbian teenagers who feel that they will have to endure for the rest of their lives.  But, for the hetero students, this is also a message that should happen.

I don't know if any and all school shootings can be prevented. But, these extreme cases are only the incidents that have externalized the violence.  Many high schoolers end up killing themselves.  Just last month, a Florida 12-year-old student committed suicide after being cyber bullied.

Luckily, the conversation isn't centering around gun violence...yet.  USA Today offered a point, counter-point on how to best deal with bullies. They're both focused on prevention, but they have two different thoughts on achieving the ideal solution, and they both have points.  The former towards the feeling of helplessness by the victim, the latter toward the changing of the behavior in the bully.

In any of these cases, the solution is the same: reduce the fuel, and the violence will go down.  Lessen the bullying, and you'll get fewer non-gang-related shootings and fewer suicides.

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