The CBC reminded me this morning that today marks the ten-year anniversary of what happened at Columbine. I immediately thought of this song, which Amanda Palmer apparently wrote upon learning about what happened, but waited for years to debut. Unlike most of the hysterical anti-kid, anti-media reactions that followed (for perspective, see Henry Jenkins’ chapter on speaking to Congress about videogames), Palmer sought to insert herself in the killers’ subjectivity, to understand them from within rather than without. It’s this kind of empathic, phenomenological approach that’s missing from much of the discourse surrounding youth violence — which still focuses on media strawmen, and claims that influence is the same as causation.
I remember being in school the day of the shootings. I remember watching them on television. I remember thinking that maybe this would be the time that the adults finally woke up, saw what was wrong, saw how broken we all were, saw the need for change. But no. Instead, we got a lot more coverage of how evil we all were; how crazy; how deep our bloodlust clearly ran; how passive we were as audiences; how we needed protecting from “the wrong messages”; how we were either helpless babes in the woods constantly threatened by media influences, or proto-fascists headed for two weeks of Ludovico. Not kids, but killers. Not subjects, but stereotypes.
When I write violence, I try to remember that this is what I’m thwarting.