Tomorrow will be the 10 year anniversary since the Columbine massacre. Firstly, I can't believe it's been 10 years since this terrible tragedy took place. Secondly, when I googled 'Columbine' the first page of results was linked to the high school shooting that grabbed headlines on April 20th 1999.

My writing of late seems to be much more geared towards current affairs and global issues. I feel as though I've entered a higher plain as a writer and poetess, and nine years ago, when I started my Imaginative Writing course, I only really wrote about things that happened to me e.g love, death etc. Now I tend to write down ideas in my notebook which I always carry on me, anything that moves me, a headline, a news story, a man on the bus wth crutches who boys at the back shout abuse at for beng overweight. So many things move me on a daily basis, to quote American Beauty, "sometimes there's so much beauty in the world I can't stand it."

There are so mnay shocking news stories every day that you begin to get a bit blase about it. Suicide bombings, soldiers killed, terrorism. I don't think these things particularly happen any more often than they used to, but technological developments such as social networking sites and mobile phones, blackberrys etc, mean the world becomes smaller in a way. For me this is invaluable and means I can stay in touch with my family 200 miles away, my cousin in New Zealand, and see my nephew growing up and developing so quickly each day.

Back to Columbine. There is a fantastic article on Wikipedia that has given me lots of information for the poem I am writing about Columbine. It states that it was the '4th deadliest' high school shooting in US history. It sickens me that there is even any kind of measure for different levels of killings such as these, but personally I think most of us will never begin to understand why these things happen. You could analyse it for years and still be no clearer as to motives for ther actions. There are so many shocking cases throughout history, names that spring to mind; Charles Manson, Myra Hindley, the 2 boys who killed James Bulger. I do believe that pure evil exists in human form in these cases, and although people refer to upbringing and outside influences, there is something fundamentally wrong inside the brains of these people.

Which brings me to the focus on the time by the media of links with the two boys - Klebold and Harris - and their use of violent video games, films, and associations with 'the goth subculture.' It angers me greatly the blame culture that we seem to live in, where peple use any excuse but the people themselves to pin blame on others, who actually played no part in the tragedies carried out. Marilyn Manson had his reputation tarnished for years as a result of the press condemning his music as inspiration for such acts. I am a big Marilyn Manson fan myself. A lot of people probably don't know that his real name is Brian Warner. He chose his stage name from two of the greatest tragedies- Marilyn Munroe and Charles Manson. If you have ever read his interviews, he is exceptionally articulate and intelligent.

I just don't buy the excuse that these boys did what they did because they played Doom and were in the 'Trenchcoat mafia' at school (all hearsay.) Secret Service reports reveal that although the boys played these games and Harris even created higher levels for the game which are now known as the Harris levels, they actually used the games as an outlet for their anger and it was only when their computer access was restricted, that they became more and more angry with the world and they had no outlet for this rage. One of the boys was actually on anti-depressants and had recenty had his prescription changed. It's proven that for the first two weeks anti-depressants can increase suicidal thoughts and erratic behaviour. Mental illness is an issue that is completely misunderstood and desperately needs more focus and understanding both by the medical profession and by society. Doctors are far too quick to prescribe these happy pills and, although I appreciate that they ultimately save a lot of people from sucide, it's the mental health equivalent of putting a plaster on a broken leg. I am not professing at all that this is an excuse for Columbine but think it was a contributing factor to the events that unfolded.

After Columbine there was a big focus on social cliques and anti-bullying movements in US schools. One of the main reasons suspected for Klebold and Harris's hatred of the world was bullying. As someone -one of many I feel - who was bullied at school for being different, it really strikes a chord with me how much bullying can destroy your confidence. For whatever reason, too fat, too thin, too tall, too short, or just becuase you don't fit in with the 'in' crowd, the daily fear of name calling, intimdation and fear, can take over your whole life. I remember being sick on the way to school once I hated it so much. Luckily I have always had an inner strength that allows me to rise above anyone who judges me for who I am, and feel a sense of satisfaction to see those people who bullied me living in the same place where they grew up still going out and getting wasted as if they were still 18.

I don't condemn people who never leave the place where they grew up. It's just that, with the things I wanted to achieve in my life, if I hadn't left home when I was 18 and gone to uni I never would have met the people I did and done so many things. Five years since I graduated from my MA my friends are pretty scattered about. But we all stay in touch. It's only really in the last 2 years that I have felt 100% happy in my own skin and shaken off all my demons that the bulies buried deep in my psyche all those years ago. But people who are terribly bullied have their lives ruined by people who, deep down, aren't really happy themselves. One of my old housemates - who will remain nameless - told me she used to be a bully. I was shocked she showed no remorse for her actions years ago. She had never been bullied. When I asked her how she would cope if she was bullied in adulthood she said she would leave her job, where she was living etc.

I haven't told many people about this but I was terribly bullied by my boss in my last job. Luckily I was only there for 6 months but this really had an effect on me. The constant put downs, comments about my clothes and appearance (she was single in her 50s, childless and overweight, not reasons to be unhappy per say, but she targeted young attractive staff with happy relationships) led me to doubt my abilities, skills, and my decision to take the job. Although my time there was mostly an unhappy one, living 200 miles from my family, friends, and boyf, it actually taught me a lot of lessons. First was not to get sucked into office gossip. There were a lot of negative people where I was working, who clearly had been in ther jobs too long, but were too scared of change to do anything about it. They also were very scathing and unwelcoming to 'the new girl' who was younger, thinner - I feel being young and slim was a factor in their comments of 'ooh she's got a red top on today, it must be summer', 'you can't join in our chat, you're just a little girl'- SERIOUSLY!- etc etc- and more qualified than all of them put together. Although they were mostly divorced single Mums in ther 40s and 50s I don't feel this behaviour is typical of colleagues who are different ages. One library authority I worked for for 3 years had a real mix of ages and until my current role, was the place I had always been happiest, and made lifelong friends who am still in touch with today. Second lesson was to stand up for myself in future. I went to the stage of meeting with the HR officer and union rep to take things further, as many colleagues were in breach of both the council and CILIP's code of conduct by ther behaviour towards me. In the end I didn't take things past that stage. In retrospect, I wish I had as it could have prevented someone else from this treatment (my only friend there encountered exactly the same treatment 2 years previously.) But I've put it behind me now, as part of the past 2 years that I am relieved is done and dusted.

So then, Columbine. One reason cited for the massacre was Klebold and Harris's 'desensitisation' towards violence as a result of playing violent video games. When asked by teacher Patti Nielson what he was doing, one boy replied 'oh, just killing people.' The cold hard nature of this comment shocked me to the core when I read it. The theory goes that the games lost the thrill after a while and they needed real violence to get a kick. I just don't accept that argument. I played a fighting game on a friend's xbox last weekend and I didn't feel the urge to kick someone in the head afterwards. Another question that they asked their victims was 'do you believe in God?' Religion or lack of it was clearly a factor in their behaviour. 'Religion is the opium of the people' said Karl Marx, and while I respect people who are religious, I feel religous differences cause most of our wars.

A video was made by the pair just before their final moments, saying goodbye and apologising, so clearly they had some remorse. Since Columbine, US federal and state legislation has changed so at least something has good has come out of this, but I still feel it's nowhere near enough. Schools have a zero tolerance policy on firearms but is that really the answer? Surely zero tolerance in the US on guns would make more sense but I can't even begin to understand US firearm legislation or know enough about it to truly reflect on this.

If you've found this topic interesting, read 'We need to talk about Kevin' by Lionel Shriver and watch Michael Moore's Bowling for Columbine. Both mesmerising works of literature/documentary.

Klebold and Harris committed suicide after killing their classmates and teachers so we will never truly know their motives. I believe they intended to create a spectacle. Ten years on we are still talking about it, so I guess you could say they did what they intended. Just tragic it was done through bloodshed. I will be thinking of the victims of Columbine tomorrow. Funny thing the human race. I don't even begin to understand it.


  1. There was an interesting social experiment a few years ago, can't remember who ran it, where a rugby team with a particularly bad violent offense rate was monitored for a few months. On the second half of the study the team was made to play the most violent video games available on the market before their match. The result? Playing the violent games actually reduced the number of violent offenses on the pitch. Interesting...


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