October 03, 2005

The Columbine Bowling Game

The bowling in the title refers to the "bowling" game devised by senior jocks at Columbine High School in which freshmen would be slid across a baby-oiled floor into other students. This was simply one of the many humiliations, physical abuses, taunts, and threats perpetrated by testoterone-laden bullies at Columbine High School against other kids.

A new book, "Going Postal: Rage, Murder, and Rebellion" by Mark Ames, claims that it was this culture of violence and menace that caused Eric Harris and Dylan Klebold to go "postal" at Columbine on April 20, 1999. It was not, he asserts, a culture of sexual perversion, video games, Goth culture, drugs, homosexuality, rock 'n roll, or godlessness -- and many other reasons the Christian right would have us believe caused it.

Shockingly, polls show that most Americans blame either the parents or the internet.

The culture of violence and bullying at the school has basically been forgotten or forgiven. The jock, macho, muscle-brained behavior and attitudes of the top-dog white boys and their school administration sponsors and enablers is ignored and downplayed.

Here is a bit of what everyone has forgiven or forgotten:

-- One Jewish student she interviewed told how jocks threatened to "build an oven and set him on fire," and how, during P.E. basketball, each time someone scored a basket, the bullies would cheer, "that's another Jew in the oven!" The student complained over and over, but, he said, the school administration not only didn't punish the jocks, they "did everything but call me a liar."

-- Debra Spears, whose stepsons attended Columbine in 1994-1995, said, "It was relentless. The constant threats walking through the halls. You had a whole legion of people that would tell you that just going to school was unbearable." Her stepsons both dropped out and never earned their diplomas -- Columbine essentially destroyed their lives.

-- One female student recounted how, when she was a Columbine freshman, some jocks spotted her talking to Dylan Klebold in the school hallway between classes. After she walked away from him, one of the bullies slammed her against the lockers and called her a "fag lover." None of the students came to help her -- and when asked later why she didn't report the incident to the administration, she replied, "It wouldn't do any good because they wouldn't do anything about it."

-- Students and parents all complained of Columbine High's exceptionally brutal culture, but the administration did nothing about it. Some who worked in the school district told Huerter that they kept mum about the bullying because they were afraid for their jobs. As Brown noted, "The bullies were popular with the administration."

-- Former Columbine student Brooks Brown recounted one incident: "I was smoking cigarettes with [Klebold and Harris] when a bunch of football players drove by, yelled something, and threw a glass bottle that shattered near Dylan's feet. I was pissed, but Eric and Dylan didn't even flinch. 'Don't worry about it, man,' Dylan said. 'It happens all the time.'"

-- Harris got it worse than most, not just because he dressed weird or was one of the computer nerds, but also because he was short, he was a transplant from out-of-state (like Andy Williams) and, due to an embarrassing indent in his chest, he never took his shirt off during P.E., giving the jocks more ammo to attack him.

-- As one member of the Columbine High School football team bragged after the massacre, "Columbine is a good, clean place except for those rejects. Most kids didn't want them there ... Sure we teased them. But what do you expect with kids who come to school with weird hairdos and horns on their hats? ... If you want to get rid of someone, usually you tease 'em. So the whole school would call them homos."

-- ...a typical Columbine school day for Harris and Klebold was torture. Former student Devon Adams told the Governor's Columbine Review Commission that the boys were regularly called "faggots, weirdoes, and freaks."

-- In the APA Journal, two development psychology academics observed, "Research indicates that chronic targets of peer harassment become increasingly withdrawn and depressed. The other, much less common reaction to bullying is hostility and aggression. Why did Eric Harris and Dylan Klebold have this more extreme reaction? It seems that bullying and victimization were not just individual phenomena, they were part of the school culture at Columbine High."

Columbine is a microcosm where we can see the world at large. A world dominated by bullies, a world run by might-makes-right thinking and behavior, a world where powerful men are fearful of losing their dominion and threatened by the "other," a world where submission and force are the only tools left to these men -- that's the world the rest of us live in.

Thanks to AlterNet

1 comment:

Angel, librarian and educator said...

I came here because someone posted a link to your blog over at AmericaBlog. At any rate, was taking a look, and this is really, like that person said, a blog that should be getting a lot more traffic: thoughtful, well written, interesting. The Columbine post caught my eye as an educator who saw once too often how certain bullies were allowed to roam the school while the administration coddled them, often because their parents were in some power position. What frightens, well for one, I have a child who will one day go to high school. Two, I am actually surprised that we don't see more incidents like this more often. While I certainly don't advocate a kid grabbing a gun and taking as many of his peers out as possible, you do have to ask how much abuse, humiliation, and harassment does a human being have to take before he or she says enough and stands up. Given that the administration is either ignorant or compliant with the abuse, that the abused grab a gun actually becomes the next logical step. That's scary. Keep on blogging.

By the way, love the Orwellian references. I used to teach _1984_ to my high schoolers many moons ago. Explaining the party slogans was not as easy as it sounds.