I graduated high school in 1998. Sociologists and social psychologists refer to my group of as graduates as the last class of non-violence.
We weren’t entirely non-violent students. I graduated with over 800 other students. We dealt with fist fights, sexual assault, sexual harassment, rape, and we once had a fight on the parking lot that escalated into a stabbing. We get that moniker because we are the last graduating class that has never had to have a lock-down drill or dealt with the reality of an active shooter on campus.
Yes, those things had happened, but they weren’t large scale massacres. Like the stabbing incident at my high school, school shootings were isolated events that happened in parking lots of big urban schools that had metal detectors when you walked into the school. My school didn’t have a metal detector. We never once had a lock down drill.
The reason my generation earned this moniker is because the year after I graduated, Dylan Klebold and Eric Harris would open fire in Columbine High School. For most of us, this was the first non-isolated attack of a school shooter. Klebold and Harris didn’t set out with one target in mind that morning, they had a list and everyone else was collateral damage.
Klebold and Harris got their wish, infamy. Because of their action, society began to question Goth culture, rock music (which already had a bad reputation), and outcasts from society. People like me. When the list of their music was released, I realized we had the same taste in music and I was already something of a serial killer aficionado, because by April 20, 1999, I had already started working on the D&R series, but I didn’t know much about serial killers and I was doing a huge amount of research to figure it out.
However, their real legacy is the dozens of copycats that have come since then.
However, as this day continues to unfold, I realize that sociologists are right, my class was the last one to graduate without the fear of a school shooting. And at some point, we have to stop and think about what actually changed between 1990 and 1999. Music and violent TV didn’t drive Klebold and Harris to commit the Columbine massacre. Because most of the music listened to had been around long before 1999. And TV might have gotten a little more violent between 1990 and 1999, but it didn’t get that much more violent. I heard a lot of people say it was the movie Natural Born Killers that caused it. Uh, again, I watched it in 1995, I know because it had just been released on video when I saw it and I wasn’t yet old enough to drive…
And this was a time when video games were still like Pharaoh not Grand Theft Auto. Meaning, it’s hard to image video games were the problem. Furthermore, the problem with blaming Grand Theft Auto and Natural Born Killers is that it really doesn’t explain what changed either in the brains of people born in 1981 and beyond or what changed in our society to make school shootings, god forbid, trendy.
This is like that book I read, the one that said absentee fathers were the reason school shootings happened. Since, the 1940s, absentee fathers have been a thing. Thousands of kids were left without fathers all over the world after WWII and with divorce becoming less stigmatized (however, I would rather have divorced parents than unhappily married parents). And yet it took 54 years to go from WWII and the rise of the absentee father to get a major school shooting, so that doesn’t seem like very good evidence that absentee fathers are the only problem.
The insanity never ends.