Columbine, Revisited

In addition to being Hitler’s birthday, April 20 also is the anniversary of the Columbine shootings, which happened 10 years ago. People are still searching for answers as to why it happened, and whether it has any lasting societal significance.

I’m not sure such questions can really be answered. Columbine is one of those horrible incidents — like, say, Jonestown — that will cause some talking heads to draw immediate, sweeping conclusions about entire generations but that don’t seem quite so profoundly defining after the years have passed. Fortunately, there wasn’t a wave of mass school violence in the wake of Columbine, just as there was no glut of religious cult suicides after Jonestown. To be sure, Columbine has caused parents, school administrators, and concerned citizens to focus on school violence and security, to examine the impact of bullying, and to consider how to connect with outcast students. At bottom, however, Columbine was simply the product of two deeply disturbed, disengaged kids who were eager to make some kind of twisted statement and leave some kind of perverse legacy. They failed. Ten years later, how many people remember their names, or their stories?

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