The latest school shooting in Texas and the details about the perpetrator that filled the media prompted a flashback to April 20th, 1999. On that date, two students of the Columbine high school in Colorado, Eric Harris and Dylan Clebold, entered the school and shot and killed 13 and injured 21 people. Their original plan was much scarier: IEDs placed at the support columns in the cafeteria were supposed to detonate and cause the roof to collapse during lunch, when it would be the busiest with students eating their meal, while Harris and Clebold were to wait outside and pick any survivors off. The last act would be played after the perpetrators were dead. According to their plan, their cars filled with explosives would detonate when the TV crews and survivors and all kinds of people would be in the parking lot to report on the news and treat wounded etc. FBI tested the IEDs on replica columns and said that had they worked as intended, they had the capacity to destroy the columns and bring down the structure. Thankfully for the students of Columbine that didn’t happen, or today we would be talking about two hundred or three hundred dead.
The mythos that was created around the perpetrators of that act still has influence in angry (and idiotic) teens all over the world. Harris and Clebold are described in the dark corners of the internet and in teen girls’ Instagram posts as shining knights that rose against whatever injustice their classmates put them through, the t-shirts they wore on that day are sold as novelty items. White with natural selection written in black letters for Harris, black with wrath written in red letters for Clebold. On the up side, these morbid fascinations could be attributed to teen angst and the desperate attempt of young people to appear edgy and cool and deep: in the 1980’s and 1990’s the edgy stuff was metal and Satanism and the occult, unfortunately now the teens have true “evil” to be fascinated with but unfortunately, they are not the only group that glorifies people like Clebold and Harris, the other group is the one that unfortunately acts upon that fascination. Adam Lanza had a map in his room with pins showing every school shooting in the U.S. for example, the Texas shooter had a duster and a black t-shirt with white letters “born to kill” written on it. While not yet known, I bet my lunch that the Columbine shooter’s sympathies will appear in his writings and posts as the investigation progresses. It is my belief that Columbine, the publicity around it and the mythos created around the shooters inspired a new generation of serial killers, the school shooter — or mass shooter in other cases. We see in many cases perpetrators wearing military or similar looking gear, as was the case with the Aurora shooter or Adam Lanza, and one wonders, if they never had the objective to fight it out with the police, why the gear? In my mind their objective is to be immortalized through CCTV, like their idols in the world-famous cafeteria cctv footage: the outlines of Harris and Clebold from that still shot are so recognizable that they are part of popular culture.
Columbine is ground zero for another reason. Columbine happened in an era when those events were not common and their use as ammo to label political opponents as the worst kind of humans and further political goals was not that much in play. Thus, it can give us a clearer image of why school shootings happen.
Unfortunately — for people left and right, it is not guns — it is not deprivation of perceived privilege, is not lack of religion or family. Most of those kids are plain old sociopaths with an excuse and idols.