Rwanda and Columbine: The Politics of Forced Reconciliation

Occasionally, in response to something I write, I receive an e-mail advising me that, for the good of my soul, I had better stop judging criminals (or criticizing, or even joking about them) and train myself to vigilantly “forgive” them instead.  For example:

Life is too short to walk around with this kind of hate inside. Anger and bitterness is a poison that destroys the pot it is kept in.

There is more at work here than anonymous sanctimony and poor grammar.  There is presumption: presumption that forgiveness does not exist unless it is broadcast like a cheap pop song; presumption that crime victims as a group must be regulated and policed, that they are the dangerous creatures, more dangerous than the offenders who committed crimes against them.

Why is it that people who incontinently think only the best of criminals leap to believe the worst about people who are victimized?  I suppose the simple answer is that they must, in order to justify their choices.  Victims must be distrusted, lest people feel restrained from showering trust and affection on offenders.

Crime must be disappeared in order to legitimate sentimental feelings towards the criminal.

The Ur-text of such sentimental pathology surely is the film Dead Man Walking.  In order to promote herself as an extremely special harvester of extremely hardened souls, Sister Helen Prejean ran roughshod over quite a few facts and suffering innocents, both in her real life and through her artistic collaboration with the vile Susan Sarandon, who’s never met an unrepentant murderer she couldn’t love, lust for, or name her unborn baby after.

Such exercises have little to do with the exercise of actual forgiveness, which is perfectly capable of existing without the interventions of activist nuns, United Nations reconciliation committees, or federal grant-subsidized “restorative justice” professionals.


In fact, I know a great many crime victims, and exactly none of them are burning up on the inside because they cannot escape the carping furies in their souls (Aeschylus was such a hack).

On the other hand, crime victims do burn understandably hot over never getting their day in court, or not seeing their offender held accountable, or watching him walk free to offend again.  In other words, it isn’t feelings of vengeance that drive crime victims crazy: it’s denial of justice.

Yet that message doesn’t register with the reconciliation professionals.  They are too busy finding ways to level moral distinctions between offenders and victims, if not tip the scales completely.  The “restorative justice” movement itself started out as a program to push offenders to take responsibility for their crimes and make amends — but like many similar programs, it quickly devolved into mere advocacy for inmates.  Scratch the surface of most reconciliation programs and you will find nothing more than anti-incarceration activists deflecting resources that are supposed to aid crime victims.


Reconciliation and forgiveness are nice words. Closure is a lovely, if overused concept.  But we have turned these words into burdens we hang around the necks of people on the receiving end of crime.  And this has been done in order to benefit criminals in ways that may not really benefit them at all.


I recently read two interesting books that confront, in vastly different settings, the politics of forgiveness.  Columbine, by Dave Cullen, examines the 1999 Colorado massacre by Eric Harris and Dylan Klebold; The Antelope’s Strategy, by Jean Hatzfeld, is an account of the government-and-NGO-enforced reconciliation of Tutsi survivors with Hutu murderers a decade after the 1994 Rwandan genocide.

Although rural Rwanda and suburban Columbine are vastly different places, I came away from these books with an eerie sense that the Colorado and Rwandan murderers were speaking in a single voice.  Eric Harris, sitting in his basement in Colorado taping messages about the slaughter he’s about to commit, sounds chillingly like the leaders of the Hutu killing parties as they recount their daily forays to catch and kill the Tutsis who had escaped the killing of the previous day.  There is the same degree of nihilistic, cheerful premeditation and ambitions of slaughter.   Both Cullen and Hatzfeld seem aware that “root cause” theories, forensic psychology, and even their own considerable powers of explanation can only take them so far in explaining any of these killers’ deepest motives.

Evil, which is frequently overlooked in discussions of crime, is given its due.  So is not knowing — not being able to make sense, after a point.

Columbine was marketed as a corrective to media misrepresentations, but even so, I was surprised by the vast differences between the Columbine story as it played out in the national press and the story Dave Cullen uncovers.  Of course, I knew about the mythology that sprang up around victim Cassie Bernall: reporters had already eagerly discounted that pro-Christian-faith story, as Cullen shows.  But it appears that they were far less cautious with their own favored narratives (secular faith systems, one might say).

It was bullying, the media breathlessly reported, that drove Harris and Klebold to kill, and the victims they targeted were none other than the stereotypical high school bullies who taunted them for being different. Columbine, according to many members of the press, was yet more proof of the terrible consequences of picking on people, and not respecting differences, and the horrors of “jock culture,” and feeling alienated in high school, and so on.  This tale, encouraged by “anti-bullying” professionals, took on a life of its own, and few in the media bothered to question the presumptions underlying it.

But it was not true, not only because the killers were not relentlessly bullied, but because the crime they tried to carry out would have killed many hundreds of random students and rescue workers, had the detonators worked in the bombs they set.  The shootings were random, also, as Cullen proves through an excruciating march through crime scene evidence.

Yet in the interest of promoting a narrative that spread blame to “everyone” for the murders, and additionally laid special blame on jock-types (an acceptable bias), the press played down the story of the bombs and largely invented the story about revenge against specific targets.

These misrepresentations were hardly random.  The victims were tarred with culpability; Harris and Klebold were unburdened of it.  Even though the “bullying” story was a complete fabrication, anti-bullying “tolerance” activists received a massive payday from the $3.8 million dollar fund set up to compensate victims, a payday several times larger than the largest payouts given to the most critically wounded students or the families of the dead.  Some students with lesser injuries didn’t even receive enough money to cover their medical costs, while tolerance trainers raked in the cash for a “crime of bullying” that didn’t really happen and wouldn’t rise to the level of a misdemeanor crime if it had.

So although Harris and Klebold were not victims of bullying, their non-existent suffering was thus “reimbursed” at a far higher rate than the real suffering they inflicted on any of their victims.  And that is an important untold story of Columbine, though, strangely, after going to great lengths to decimate the false “bullying” narrative, Dave Cullen doesn’t question the use of victim funds to perpetuate the bullying story.

What did this payday to “tolerance trainers” actually purchase?  Most likely, to tell the surviving students — and their families, and the families of the dead, and the community at large — that they were all responsible for the social alienation that culminated in the loss of their loved ones.  By paying for tolerance programs, authorities were essentially pleading guilty, on behalf of others, to the crime of intolerance.  Intolerance towards whom?

People who are “different.”  People who feel victimized by society.  Eric Harris and Dylan Klebold?  Who else?

What might a sane, fact-based response to Columbine look like? It certainly wouldn’t include paying people a dime to sensitize innocent survivors to minor social offenses that didn’t occur in the first place.  Money would have been better spent examining the actual warning signs displayed by the killers, Eric Harris in particular.  Harris was a textbook psychopath who had accumulated a long rap sheet — or would have, had multiple reports of violent threats, stalking, and explosives-based vandalism, in addition to car theft charges, been taken seriously. Instead, probation and classroom records show that he easily adopted the stance of a remorseful and prison-scarred youth (after just a few hours in jail), even earning admiration from one teacher because he’d “learned so much” from the enriching experience of being arrested.

But grieving victims who asked how the two killers could plan a massacre and stockpile and stage multiple weapons and guns without detection found themselves on the wrong side of a grief industry — and intertwined anti-bullying industry — that insisted that questions like these were simply the wrong questions to ask.  It is practically impossible, in the current atmosphere, to blame crime solely on the offenders.  Everyone else is expected to ritualistically absorb some portion of blame — or stand accused of failing to heal, find closure, or audibly forgive.


But what happens when the scale of the crime is so large that many people are responsible, so many that imposing justice is practically impossible?  In 1994, more than half a million ethnic Tutsi were systematically slaughtered by Hutu militias in Rwanda, a genocide that spared only 300,000 Tutsi in a country of nearly 7 million.  In 2003 the surviving Tutsi learned that the government would be releasing tens of thousands of Hutu being held for the murders.  Already forced to live alongside Hutu who had failed to stop the killings, or even participated in them, Tutsi survivors would now be pressured to participate in tribunals designed to “reconcile” victims with many of the killers who had led the genocide.  Imprisoned Hutu who willingly confessed (often to extremely minor parts of their activities) were allowed to return home to live alongside the people they had tried to kill and whose family members they succeeded in killing.

At the heart of the prison releases was a demographic argument: Rwanda needed imprisoned farmers to return to work, and Hutu women and children needed their men to sustain family life.  But the releases also reflected another demographic reality: in an overwhelmingly Hutu nation, the government was more than willing to push the Tutsi genocide into the past.

Tutsi were already experiencing the nearly unbearable difficulty of living alongside people who had tried to kill them and had raped and murdered most members of their families.  Survivors spend months fleeing from armed men who hunted them repeatedly, day after day, and returned home in the evenings to loot, feast, and rest for the next day’s hunt: entire villages preyed on their former, and future, neighbors.  Given the scale of the attacks and their small numbers, Tutsi who survived the genocide had long-ago settled for symbolic justice and uneasy promises of safety.

But now, forced “reconciliation” was literally supplanting what little justice had actually been delivered.  Few of the Tutsi who speak in The Antelope Strategy harbored any illusions about the effects of pardoning mass numbers of killers.  They can hardly afford wishful talk about “closure.”  They live in fear that reconciliation will embolden the Hutu and, ironically, inflame anti-Tutsi sentiment, leading to outbreaks of violence.

Antelope Strategy is, in part, an extraordinary exploration of the limits of rehabilitation and forgiveness:

Claudine Kayitesi: “In the courts injustice gobbles up justice.  Obviously, not every killer deserves execution — but still, some of them, after all.  Those who burned babies alive, who cut and cut till their arms ached, who led expeditions of a thousand hunters — those should really have disappeared from our lives.  The state has decided to save them.  If someone had asked for my opinion?  I would have sent the propagandists and the major leaders to the firing squad.  That wasn’t done; foreigners exerted influence, and the authorities proved flexible to favor national reconciliation.  For us, it becomes impossible to relieve our grief, even with full bellies.  Basically, justice is not worrying about the feelings of survivors.”

Berthe Mwanankabandi: “What’s the use of looking for mitigating circumstances for people who butchered day after day after day and even on Sundays with their machetes?  What can you mitigate?  The number of victims?  The method of hacking?  The killers’ laughter?  Delivering justice would mean killing the killers.  But that would be like another genocide, and would bring chaos.  Killing or punishing the guilty in some suitable way: impossible.  Pardoning them: unthinkable.  Being just is inhuman. . . This is not a human justice, it’s a politics of justice.  We can only regret that they never show either sincerity or sorrow.”

Innocent Rwililiza: “The other Tutsi, from the diaspora [who fled to refugee camps], make sure the survivors never take revenge. . . The diaspora Tutsi don’t forget anything — either the terror of their flight, or the wretchedness of of exile, or the massacres of their families.  They are neither traitors nor ingrates.  But it suits them to present the genocide as a kind of human catastrophe, a dreadful accident of history, in a way requiring formidable efforts of cooperation to repair the damage.  They invented the policy of reconciliation because seven out of ten Rwandans are Hutus.  It’s a terrible thing, after a genocide: a demographic majority that snatched up the machete.  Reconciliation would be a sharing of trust.  The politics of reconciliation, that’s the equitable division of distrust.”

Usually, western legal philosophy focuses only on the ethical limitations of punishment, not the ethical limitations of mercy.  The Tutsi who speak in the book are not universally negative, but they cannot afford to be naive.  It is not just in places like Rwanda that we are too quick to forgive murderers:

Francine Niyitegeka:  “With age, the scars are healing from my skin. . . But although I am relieved, I am never at peace.  Deep down, I , too, feel oppressed by walking behind the fate that was set for me.  Someone who saw herself in muddy detail as a corpse in the papyrus lying among all the others, comparing herself to all those dead, always feels distressed.  By what?  I cannot say; I don’t know how to express it even to myself.  If her spirit has accepted her end, if she has at some point understood that she will not survive, such a person has seen an emptiness in her heart of hearts that she will never forget.  The truth is, if she has lost her soul even for a moment, then it’s a tricky thing for her to find a life again.”

Columbine Dave Cullen (2009, Hatchette Book Group)

The Antelope’s Strategy: Living in Rwanda After the Genocide Jean Hatzfeld (2007, Farrar Straus and Giroux)


11 thoughts on “Rwanda and Columbine: The Politics of Forced Reconciliation”

  1. Wow, that’s a really thoughtful critique of my book (Columbine), and “The Antelope’s Strategy,” Tina. I never thought about the connection to the Rwanda genocide, but it seems pretty apt. I’ll ponder that more.

    I really appreciate the time you took to think this through and write about it so eloquently.


  2. Thank you for covering the story in the way you did. You let the community speak for itself, which is, sadly, really rare, let the victims express ordinary anger without judging them: you trusted their decency. It’s really an extraordinary book.

    It was entirely accidental that I read the books together. I’d wanted to read Columbine, and Antelope’s Strategy was sitting next to it on a library shelf. But once I started reading them, it was chilling, how the killers’ voices echoed each other. I tend to believe that, because the Columbine killers were psychopaths, Harris especially, it was natural for him to become entangled in a very violent fantasy world fed by popular culture — pop culture that doesn’t “turn” other people into killers, certainly, but helped feed his appetite to dehumanization others. Then you look at Rwanda, where there were thousands of men (and women) who had managed to desensitize themselves to their neighbors’ humanity, neighbors who lived in close contact with them in interdependent agricultural villages.

    I don’t know what to do with that, except to say that all violence escalates, which is why law — legal consequences — matter so much. There were two killers at Columbine, and thousands of innocent people, and far too many people were willing to blur the lines between the two, which I think is both ethically and practically dangerous. In Rwanda, there were thousands of killers, and millions who weren’t killing. Some of the latter were intimidated; others supported the killers, but because there was no law, and the killers have been “rehabilitated,” they’ve got this existential crisis in which murder is not so wrong anymore.

    I think. . .

  3. Bingo! [On Columbine]: “Money would have been better spent examining the actual warning signs displayed by the killers, Eric Harris in particular. Harris was a textbook psychopath who had accumulated a long rap sheet — or would have, had multiple reports of violent threats, stalking, and explosives-based vandalism, in addition to car theft charges, been taken seriously. Instead, probation and classroom records show that he easily adopted the stance of a remorseful and prison-scarred youth (after just a few hours in jail), even earning admiration from one teacher because he’d “learned so much” from the enriching experience of being arrested”.

    Why exactly is this? One big reason? Class based biases. All these otherwise ‘nice suburban white middle class kids’, well they can’t be psychopaths & sociopaths now, right? Wrong! And if we’re lucky, after a decade or so of mostly typical ‘low grade’ juvenile crimes they only ‘graduate’ from their cushy ‘alternative programs’ to get some higher ed & move on to the softer shaded worlds of white collar crime. (And if you really want to see some coddled criminals, there’s the place to look, BTW). But even with a DSM IV under your arm and a ‘textbook case’ seen above, all too many ‘therapists’ & social workers are still reluctant to call these ‘deeply troubled rich kids’ for what they really are: a clear and present threat to themselves, their families & especially their communities that they so often prey upon.

    And truly? Almost every family knows one. And somehow if they & we are considered ‘lucky’? They ‘just grow out of it’ and become the otherwise ‘normal seeming well adjusted’ secret this or that. Nothing too violent or open about it all. Until something breaks, and then it’s not so nice & normal after all.

    Rwanda is a bigger story, that also has a definite strong media connection here too. Radio directed much of the killings, and quite effectively mobilized mass killings by first demonizing their Tutsi neighbors for nothing more than ‘looking/seeming different’ or some imaginary but dangerously popular ‘folk’ conspiracy theories. And yeah, it’s still happening here as we speak in the good ol’ USA. Any damn day of the week you can hear hair rising calls to political mob violence from yes, the radical right. Nightly, if not hourly in some benighted places by radio & on the net. We deny that too at our peril wanting to protect the ‘inviolate’ 1st Amendment claims to righteous mayhem & ‘revolution’. How could all those strangely ‘nice, quiet Christ & gun loving White folks’ be dangerous? And somewhere from the depths of hell Tim McVeigh is cackling with the obviousness of it all. But yeah. Forgiveness is not the most obvious pressing issue here. Vigilance is.

  4. Sorry JP, I don’t agree with your generalization. Poor and minority kids get a free pass in the courts on serious crimes every day of the week, and any perusal of the recidivists here will show that the problem is leniency, not leniency delivered to any one group, though, statistically, the poor and minorities commit far more crime — also tragically account for more of the victimization. Psychological excuse-making in the courts is hardly reserved for white defendants, and it has been the status quo for decades. Columbine, and other highly-publicized school shootings are, statistically, extreme anomalies. That doesn’t make them any better or worse: they’re terrible for what they are. There’s no cause to lash out at whites or Christians.

    Regarding “calls to violence by the radical right”? Mythic. Current ugliness from left-wing activists trying to make political hay by falsely accusing people who disagree with them politically. I saw a whole lot of that when I was on the political left, and it appalled me. It’s ugly, manipulative stuff, practiced by real pros. Disagree with them, and suddenly you’re a terrorist.

    Meanwhile, street crime is real terrorism, and the left is the only political party excusing it, endorsing its practitioners, and advocating leniency. How many people have been murdered for those politics?

    In America, political violence like assassination and bombings has also been largely a left-wing phenomenon, with one or two notable exceptions, McVeigh being one of them, though his politics were as muddled as the politics of the guy who just flew a plane into the IRS building. You wouldn’t know that from looking at the SPCL website, but that’s the SPLC. They make a tidy sum of cash inventing “rising tides of violence” propaganda out of thin air. There are “symbolic killers” of all races and creeds. Some of the most prolific ones today reside in gangs, drug gangs and prison gangs– black, Hispanic, and white, very equal opportunity — but that doesn’t get counted as terrorism either, unless its politically useful to someone — it’s all a complicated, ugly, and biased game, politics imposing on justice.

    I’m not saying there are no organized threats out there, or that some fraction of militias aren’t something more than websites being run out of somebody’s mom’s basement: I especially take threats to law enforcement seriously. I used to be involved in opposition research, and that is where I came to see how much of it was pure, ugly, partisan politics, though.

    Here’s the best way I can put it: I try every day to judge criminals by their actions, not their words or skin color. Why not their words? Because the ones who mean what they say don’t deserve the notoriety, and many of the rest of them are either nuts or just making excuses for things they’d do anyway. Do you know what I mean? I’m not sure I’m being clear on this point, and I appreciate your input.

  5. “Regarding “calls to violence by the radical right”? Mythic”.

    My my, your myopia is showing here. It’s just so easy to parody the right wing crazy here:

    But if you just don’t like the SPLC or ‘their lefty grandstanding’ & obvious success, try this fellow who like Mark Potok, has been covering the same beat for 2 decades:(Chip Berlet).

    Or this dude who’s researched & written books on the phenomenon that you describe as ‘mythic’:
    (David Neiwert)

    Here he is writing about those mythically marginalized well armed & exercised Christian militias just arrested:

    And here on that ‘confused tax protester’ who probably would have wanted a larger plane before killing a Federal worker & vet with his deliberate kamikaze, & yes terrorist attack on a Federal building in Austin TX, on Feb 18th. Probably causing in excess of several millions of dollars of damage too.

    I recognize the possible professional jealousy here, but really?

    “They make a tidy sum of cash inventing “rising tides of violence” propaganda out of thin air”.

    Invented? All of it, right?!

    All this stuff? Even the sotto voce calls for a new kind of Kristallnacht seen last week:

    and here from whence it’s directed:

    Invented. Mythic. Did not happen. Does not exist? Yeah the kind of mythic that makes Fox News & other media outlets big bucks for their hate spewing ‘talent’:

    But all this is largely irrelevant due to the fact that they’re all just DFHs, or something. Mostly scurrilous ‘false accusations’ made for purely political advantage. This? Did not happen:

    Neither did this lovely little number:

    Street crime? What does it take to impress you? Dead cops? Richard Poplawski afraid that the Pittsburgh cops were coming to take his guns just like Glenn Beck et al. warned him Obama would do? So 3 die on his doorstep needlessly? Yeah just random ‘noise’, nothing to see here, move along. There’s only more of that coming too.

    And of course not at all related to the hate filled propaganda seen in Rwanda:

    and here:

    and again here:

    Wake up and smell the gunpowder Tina. Left wing ‘mob violence’ or home grown terrorism , other than the marginalized ALF and other radical animal rights loons? Was mostly merely inconsequential to non existent here in the US for the last 2 decades or so. FBI stats will show that the most common ‘terrorist incidents’ of the 1990’s were of course anti-abortion related. And yes, we all lived that too.

    I hope the links take and don’t confuse the issue. The Rwanda angle here is good & solid though. JP

  6. Updates via TPM:

    “Going To Extremes: The Obama Era’s Top Ten Anti-Government Flare-Ups
    Zachary Roth | April 1, 2010, 6:35PM

    “The charges filed this week against nine members of the Hutaree Christian militia group have re-focused attention on the resurgence over the last year or so of the broader militia movement.

    That resurgence has been driven in part, say experts, by the election of President Obama. But during the Obama era, threats of anti-government violence — and even the real thing — have become more widespread. In fact, with disaffected Americans from Massachusetts to California freaking out against the Feds en masse, it sometimes seems that going postal has become all the rage. Of course, in some cases, that anti-government animus long predates the election of our current president. But there seems to be something about the current climate that’s contributing to the rash of incidents.”

    10 anti-government mostly right wing assaults, 8 dead; 5 police officers, 1 security officer.

    Nope. Not Happening. Not here! JP

  7. Tina , you are are woefully ignorant about the subject of Columbine.

    You are sadly misinformed about this subject by a slick, aggressive but ultimately vacuous media campaign promoting this book and its author.

    ave Cullen is nothing but a lying,opportunistic famewhore. His book is riddled with odious lies.

    Its disgusting how quick you all are to swallow whatever the liar says without doing any further research.

    Anyone with any real knowledge about Columbine knows what a liar Cullen is and how flawed and worthless his book is.Obviously, none of you on this page have more than a surface knowledge of the subject or you wouldn’t be mooning over Cullen’s badly written book of fiction.

    =Factual Inaccuracies==
    Dave Cullen’s book alleges that Eric Harris was involved in a romantic and sexual relationship with a woman several years his senior, Brenda Parker.

    However, according to the official police interview in the 11K she confessed to making up the relationship, in addition to making up knowing about the attack prior to it happening and being afraid to partake in it.

    Interview- “After a lengthy conversation she admitted that she wrote the above, but that it was not true. She just made it up to get attention. She stated she has no life and spends way too much time on the internet.”

    (note- JC-001-010843 to 010851)

    * [ Link to the entire 11K Report, see pages 10800-10900]

    Cullen claims that Eric Harris was a swaggering ladies’ man and confident social king. This assertion is ludicrous.

    Cullen writes that Eric “got lots of girls” and had sex with a 24-year-old woman named Brenda Parker. He even quotes Parker in his book. The truth is that Parker had no connection to Harris or the tragedy; she was a “fangirl” who sought attention by making up stories. She has *zero* credibility.

    Eric tried to get a date to the prom; he failed. He asked several girls, all of whom turned him down. He finally convinced a girl he met at the pizza place where he worked to spend a couple of hours at his house on the night of the prom; they watched a movie. She declined to attend the after-prom party with him, so he went alone.

    Harris was fairly short (5’8?) and very skinny, with a deformed chest due to his pelvus excavatum. As his body language in the following video (recorded in a hallway at Columbine and shown in a documentary about the massacre) demonstrates, he was no match for the larger boys he encountered on a daily basis:

    In his final journal entry, Eric wrote:

    “I hate you people for leaving me out of so many fun things. And no don’t — say, “well thats your fault” because it isnt, you people had my phone #, and I asked and all, but no. no no no dont let the weird looking Eric KID come along, ohh — nooo.”

    Does that sound like someone who was confident and socially successful?

    Cullen perpetuates the long-standing myth that Dylan was a sad little emo follower who was totally led by Harris.

    The truth is that Dylan was the one who wrote about going on a killing spree before Eric; he even wanted to do it with someone else.

    (Keep in mind that Eric and Dylan intended the massacre to be a bombing event with a shooting element. Their plans went awry.)

    On Monday, November 3, 1997, Dylan wrote in his journal:

    “[edited] will get me a gun, ill go on my killing spree against anyone I want. more crazy…deeper in the spiral, lost highway repeating, dwelling on the beautiful past, ([edited] & [edited] gettin drunk) w. me, everyone moves up i always stayed. Abandonment. this room sux. wanna die.”

    He wrote “*my* killing spree”, not “*our* killing spree”.

    Those who have seen the basement tapes have said that, on them, Dylan appears far more eager and enthusiastic than Eric.

    On the tapes, Eric apologizes to his family; Dylan does not.

    On one tape, Eric is seen alone, tearing up when he thinks about his friends back in Michigan. He even turns the tape off so he will not be captured crying on camera.

    If he truly was a pure psychopath, as Cullen claims, is it likely that he would have cried while thinking about old friends?

    There is also piece after piece of evidence asbout E &D being picked on and ostracized on a wide scale. Something Cullen denies ever happened.

    Whats my truth about this event?

    My truth is that E &D were bullied and tried as inhuman long enough until they decided that life was no longer worth living and decided to get revenge on a school and community that delighted in degrading them.
    I’ve been in their shoes. I know what that feels like.
    Unless you’ve been treated that badly long enough by enough people, you do not.

  8. OK, I will take a look at the more recent information about Brenda Parker. But one person making up a story doesn’t invalidate Dave Cullen’s profile of Eric Harris. Cullen’s point — that reporters in search of a narrative forced both the offenders and their victims into stereotyped categories — doesn’t rise and fall on one trouble person’s fantasy. I have no doubt that both killers felt bullied, and alienated. Most people have this experience at some point in the course of growing up. But the idea that we must focus on their feelings of victimization — well, that smacks of blaming the victims, and it denies the obvious power the killers felt and expressed. They actively participated in defining themselves as different — through clothing, behavior. They expressed contempt for people who didn’t dress and act like them. It cuts both ways. And, unfortunately, in the current climate of politicized hysteria about “the horrifying tidal wave of bullying,” many youths are getting the message that there is a great deal to gain by obsessing over their own adolescent, narcissistic travails. Remember when kids were told to ignore bullies and get on with their lives? That actually works, even if it’s hard, so long as they’re just dealing with bullying and not threats of violence or illegal violation of privacy — actual crimes that should be dealt with by the police, not coercive “trainers” who show up at schools to get paid to force everyone to contemplate the injustice du jour while the authorities refuse to act on actual assaults — of teachers and students.

    However, I agree with you that Dylan is let off the hook a little by Cullen. Eric Harris is clearly the more interesting personality to him. But both men committed mass murder. Others around them were “invited in,” more or less, and they reacted normally: they didn’t even particularly believe that their friends would be capable of committing such atrocities because they themselves were normal kids.

    And psychopaths aren’t incapable of crying. In fact, they focus obsessively on their own feelings. The people for whom they lack empathy are other people.

    You seem to know a lot about what happened at that school. Have you ever read “Another Planet”? It’s an interesting book written in the wake of Columbine.

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