the truth about columbine, 10 years later

image from Columbine High School security cameras

On Monday, it will be exactly 10 years since the day Eric Harris and Dylan Klebold ruled media airwaves with their massacre of 12 students and 1 teacher at Columbine High School. I remember that day distinctly. I had come home from school and instead of doing homework or going on my computer, I flipped on the TV. That was a strange thing for me to do, since I rarely watched TV during that time outside of late-night programming and sports. The abnormality of the moment was only magnified when I realized every channel was showing the same thing, an American high school that suddenly looked like a warzone. My stepmom came home from work and didn’t even sit down as we watched in stunned silence as the Columbine nightmare unraveled before our eyes. 

Even 10 years removed, the effects of the Columbine incident are still felt and taken for granted—the increased criticism against violent video games, new policies across the board for school security, the further ostracizing of the goth subculture, just to name a few. It’s striking, though, how much of the truth surrounding the event has come to surface over the years, and how different the truth is from what was originally conveyed immediately after it happened. For example (the following is all from this article):

  • I thought what I saw on TV was the live unfolding of the tragedy, when in fact the shooters had already committed suicide by the time cameras arrived on the scene. The shooting that was heard over live news broadcasts was from the SWAT teams shooting at locked classroom doors.
  • Harris and Klebold were painted up as part of a group of rejected outcasts who listend to Marilyn Manson and held grudges against the jocks who bullied them. David Cullen, in his new book Columbine,  reveals that the two actually had plenty of friends, did well in school, did not listen to Manson, and were not at the receiving end of any bullying.
  • Harris and Klebold’s intentions went beyond just a spontaneous shooting. Their original goal, which took a year and a half of planning, was to essentially blow up the school and leave a death toll of about 2000, equal to the school’s population.
  • Cassie Bernall, the supposed martyr who became a celebrity in the evangelical Christian world after her story leaked, was actually shot and killed outright. Valeen Schnurr was the one who was asked if she believed in God and said yes. Her life was spared.

Much of this information came as a shock to me since I haven’t read up much about the incident ever since it happened. It goes to show the power of media to proliferate knowledge, and the danger of that power when that supposed knowledge is actually a fusion of a few facts mixed with assumptions, cover-ups, speculation, and stereotypes. Further, I wonder about the sensationalism surrounding media coverage of events like Columbine that seem to glorify the perpetrators while inciting paranoia and directing responses towards problems that often were not part of the issue to begin with. What Harris and Klebold did was undoubtedly wrong, but I don’t believe it helped for the media to demonize them so much. That response, more than highlighting a fault of mass media, speaks of a problem with our society as a whole in possessing a witchhunt mentality when it comes to tragedies like Columbine instead of wanting to seek true healing, which requires us to examine ourselves in wondering how we let people like Harris and Klebold slip through the cracks.

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relationship status: it’s complicated with hip-hop

hip_hop_bound_by_imagination_by_laronship hop:bound by imagination by *larons

Now I ain’t tryna be the greatest
I used to hate hip-hop… yup, because the women degraded
But Too $hort made me laugh, like a hypocrite I played it
A hypocrite I stated, though I only recited half…

— from Hurt Me Soul, Lupe Fiasco

1994. I was in second grade. That was when I first was able to recite some lines to a rap song. I had no clue what it meant to smoke indo or sip on gin and juice, but a seed was planted into my young impressionable mind and music was never the same for me after that. Even though I still played them in my yellow Sony Walkman, the Lion King soundtrack and Gloria Estefan (no joke) just weren’t as cool anymore. Slowly, but surely, I would ignore my cassette tapes and keep my radio tuned to Power 106 and 92.3 the Beat. While there was very little about me that evoked the word “urban,” I knew and enjoyed my fair share of hip-hop, even coming to have a favorite jam while I was in elementary school.

Eventually, there came a time where I began to have doubts about my affair with hip-hop. While there remained an undeniable essence to the art form that was pure and attractive, I had gotten old enough to think somewhat critically about the media I consumed, and what was coming through the speakers wasn’t always something I could agree with—glorification of gang life, degradation of women, weak commercialized crap, not to mention a ridiculous amount of cuss words that I was beginning to associate more with “ignorant” than with “cool.” So for much of middle school and high school, I never really invested myself into hip-hop. I even took off the local hip-hop stations from my presets in the car radio. I convinced myself it was bad music and I did my best to turn away. However, there was something that wouldn’t let me completely say no to it. It was like breaking up with someone but not ever really being able to move on. Or maybe it was simply the fact that it’s the things in life you don’t choose that make you who you are. I didn’t choose to be born in the LA area when West Coast hip hop was peaking, nor to be surrounded by people who always listened to it. Try as I might, I couldn’t run from what was a part of me. 

College finally came around and I didn’t have to run anymore. At UCSD, I expanded my knowledge and thinking about many things, one of which unexpectedly was hip-hop. Though surrounded by it all my life, I never came to learn and appreciate the journey it had come through, that it was more than just a genre of music but one out of a few truly infectious cross-cultural movements in the world. I also came to realize that the hip-hop era I grew up in produced a lot of great talent, but also was the era in which people fully realized that they could make money off this whole rapping thing, which paradoxically doomed it and launched it into a whole different realm. With my newfound appreciation, I was able to again fully embrace hip-hop with the same kind of love when I was younger, except I could see that back then, I was barely dipping into all that it had to offer. This time, I was diving in head first.

This brings us to today, a day where my love for hip-hop is something I wear proudly on my sleeve. Many have commented on the state of hip-hop in recent years, and honestly, I don’t know what to make of it. There definitely is a shallow, ugly side that makes you wonder how many more twists and turns hip-hop can take before it comes crashing down. But on the flipside, I’ve never seen more potential for hip-hop to innovate and inspire than ever before. It’s an odd mix to deal with, which is why to me, hip-hop as a form of music is the most complicated to be in relationship with, but in relationship with it is how I’m destined to stay.

no, it would not ‘behoove’ me…

Texas lawmaker states Asian-Americans should change names to make it “easier for Americans to deal with”

News article: http://tinyurl.com/clwzvn

Easier for Americans to deal with? Really? As if we “Asians” aren’t American citizens either? Just a slip of the tongue, perhaps, but people need to understand that the face of America is no longer white. It takes nothing but a quick stroll through any major U.S. city to see that. You would think during a time where our president is black with a name like Barack Obama that something like this wouldn’t have to be an issue, and from a state representative, no less. I’m sympathetic to the fact that Brown will probably receive more insults than she deserves, but considering her position, she really should have known better. It’s tough enough that Asian-Americans (and other hyphened Americans) have to live up to some conceived “American” standard that is often white in color. Telling us to get rid of our names is just adding insult to injury.