Twitter wasn’t yet in existence when Eric Harris and Dylan Klebold committed a mass shooting at Columbine High School on April 20, 1999. I recall a confusing media reaction to the Columbine tragedy which may have the same root as some posts we’re seeing on Twitter now, though.
There were conflicting reports on whether Eric Harris and Dylan Klebold were bullied by classmates prior to their rampage. Actually, the reports flip-flopped like a weather forecast. To this day, if we look hard enough we’ll find only speculation, and very few people even want to discuss the possibility that two teenagers who committed an unspeakable act were ever victims themselves.
Bullying continues to be tolerated in many schools, in spite of the undeniable fact that some bullied kids have committed suicide. Attempts have been made to whitewash some of those suicides, by questioning the external trauma inflicted on the tormented children and pointing out that some of them had pre-existing mental health issues.
A current trend on Twitter is to dismiss the possibility that Dimitrios Pagourtzis, the suspect in the May 18 shooting at Santa Fe High School, was driven to violence by bullying. I don’t believe there’s a strong denial that he was bullied, but the posts I see on that social media site lean toward the statement that I was bullied as a child, and I didn’t do these horrible things.
After a mass murder, we must be wary of anything intended to draw sympathy for the person responsible. That doesn’t mean we should ignore a preventable nightmare which may contribute to a mass murder, though. We might be doing that if we go into denial about the possibility of people turning into monsters after they’ve been brutalized.
When students at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School in Parkland, Florida spoke out against the glut of assault rifles after seventeen people were murdered on their campus, some pro-gun people had the predictable reaction: the student-activists became the subject of rape and murder threats.
Every time a mass shooting occurs, people who love guns a little too much remind us that it’s people, not guns, killing people. Any reasoned argument that guns have to be taken away from certain people — or the suggestion that combat weapons don’t belong in the homes of civilians — will prompt knee-jerk reactions from the very people who scare us the most.
Yes, of course one of the most obvious answers is to make guns harder to obtain. We’d better be ready to address other things as well.
People who don’t love guns can expect to get hell whenever one of us suggests society would be safer and more civilized with fewer guns. Unfortunately, after a school shooting we can also expect hell if we bring up the topic of bullying.
If school administrators, teachers and other adults continue with their failure to stop the ongoing torment suffered by vulnerable children at the hands of their peers, we can expect more powder keg situations. Some kids will implode and either commit suicide or withdraw into their own private worlds, and others will turn the rage outward.
If you were one of the bullied children who didn’t resort to harming yourself or anyone else, great. Think twice before sticking your head in the Twitter Sand, though. Here are three posts by people I don’t know personally, with the usernames and avatars erased. There’s just something instinctive that tells me including identifying information might constitute online bullying.