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Columbine by Dave Cullen

Yeah. That's right. We're starting your week off with a Columbine review. I don't even know if I'm allowed to use GIFs here. What is GIF-etiquette, re Columbine?

Just not sure.

Because obviously GIFs can come across as making light of something, and this is one of those situations where that really, really cannot happen. Why? Because two extraordinarily psychologically messed-up teenagers killed 13 people. While I believe GIFs can be used effectively in serious situations, I do not feel up to that at the moment. So let us proceed. It's about to get kind of sad up in here.

I tend to ignore tragedies that didn't happen 100 years ago. They make me feel powerless and upset and so rather than figuring out whatever small thing I can do to help, I purposely ignore all news about them (hey, Katrina -- still not sure what went on with you). I don't remember learning that much in 1999 aside from information picked up by osmosis. The boys were bullied; they lashed out, but the only way it impacted my high school (I was a freshman) was in talking a lot about how brave that girl was for speaking out for her faith. 

Dave Cullen researched Columbine for yeeeears. And wrote an excellent and informative book that tries to dispel the myths that cropped up as a result of journalists on the scene jumping to conclusions.The boys weren't members of the "Trench Coat Mafia." They weren't bullied to such an obscene degree that they snapped. One of them was just a psychopath and one was a depressed follower. One of the best things about the book is the amount of space Cullen gives to the victims. We tend to focus on the killers in cases like this, because good Lord, how could they do that -- but it gives them this weird renown, and people forget the victims. Columbine does a truly great job of balancing information about how the attack was formulated, as well as some background on Dylan and Eric, with histories of the victims.

There's also a section on psychopathy, which includes the terrifying sentence "Psychopaths have likely plagued mankind since the beginning, but they are still poorly understood." He goes on to say that oh, hey, there seems to be no cure for being a psychopath. But they can like, channel it in a hopefully non-murdery direction. So that's great. Feelin' real secure now.

Since I went to a Christian high school, they really pushed the Cassie Bernall story. And why wouldn't you? Hey, it's a modern day teen who became a martyr for Christianity. Tremble in fear before your relative lack of faith, all ye. EXCEPT. That's not how it went down. Due to a series of miscommunications, what actually happened to another girl (who survived) was said to have happened to Cassie. That was kind of a huge shock. A girl who'd already been shot WAS asked if she believed in God and she said yes, which is damned impressive. It's unfortunate the story was misrepresented, but it didn't just not happen.

Dave Cullen's obviously got a personality, which I think he tries to keep down as much as he can, because Serious Subject Matter, and also he's mainly trying to relate the story of what actually happened, but every now and then it comes out:

That was the wrinkle. Dylan had not actually spoken to Harriet. But he couldn’t let that stop him. He thought of her every second of every day. “If soulmates exist,” he wrote, “then I think I’ve found mine. I hope she likes Techno.”
That was the other hurdle. He had not yet established whether she liked techno.

No time. Less than a month to go. Eric had a lot of shit left to do. He organized it into a list labeled “shit left to do.”

Oh, sir. I'll bet you're secretly fun at parties.

He spent ten years researching Columbine, and it was excellent. Very hard to read at times, but highly informative and he keeps it moving. There's a lot of switching back and forth between stories of the victims and the planning stages Eric and Dylan were going through. That got confusing some of the time (mostly regarding where we were, timeline-wise, with Eric and Dylan), but overall it was well-organized and a very impressive book. Well done, sir, spending a lot of time with that subject so we don't have to.


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