Columbine, Friend of Crime?
I've written to you guys before to congratulate you on your investigative reporting and was moved to write again after reading Alan Prendergast's "Doom Rules," in the August 5 issue.
The sympathy-and-blame-fest the rest of the media enjoyed for months after the Columbine shootings made me wonder about the IQ of the average journalist. Suddenly we all need tips on what to look for in our teenage children to detect signs of rage. Suddenly we need gun control to make our schools safe. Suddenly every idiot on television has the answer to America's social disintegration. As with most social commentary, the emotion-fest surrounding Columbine lacked any sense of historical perspective. I went to high school in Walla Walla, Washington, back in the early 1970s. Our little white-bread community was not so different than Littleton is today. We had our school subgroups: the hoods (kids from the wrong side of the tracks), the geeks (loners who might be found playing chess or reading during lunch hour), the freaks (the dopers), the jocks and the socies (the beautiful, popular people). I was in with the guys who played chess and were on the debate team. I got pushed around a little but developed the survival art of being invisible in school. Others who weren't so lucky got kicked around--both literally and emotionally--on a regular basis.
I recovered from my own psychological traumas and enduring sense of social embarrassment by leaving town, taking martial arts and working hard, but the emotional scars never completely go away. Now, twenty years later, nobody messes with me, but I still feel a sense of regret when I reflect on my teenage years and what my high school experience could have been. It seems that I endured some senseless joke at the hands of adolescent bullies simply because I had no sense of self-worth or awareness of my alternatives.As Prendergast put it, "the world [Columbine's] students inhabited... was a place of long-simmering resentments and pathology, wrapped in a bright lie of communal achievement and mutual respect." It was the same twenty years ago and will be the same when these high school seniors are my age unless we make some meaningful change in the institution of public education itself. For my money, the best alternatives are the charter schools and the movement to privatize the public schools. That would let the geeks like Eric Harris, Melissa Sowder...and me vote with our feet and find a school environment where we wouldn't feel punished or threatened by our classmates.
via the Internet
Easily the best writing I've seen yet on the Columbine shootings. Thanks for not taking refuge in easy answers, because there are none. We need to look everywhere for the answers, not just point to the media, lack of family values, guns, etc. Above all, I think we have to instill in our kids a belief that as adults, we want and need to hear what is going on with them. And when kids are giving us signs, we need to have the courage to listen instead of pretending we're somehow insulated from the kind of horror that occurred in Littleton.
via the Internet
Well, it is good to see someone is on the right track!! Through all the lies and crap, you are starting to find a ray of truth!! One thing, though--you need to know those kids were tormented by the so-called jocks. At work and at school. As work and school took up five days of their week, I hope you can see the torment they were under. I am not making an excuse for what they did, but many things (separately but wholly) corrupted them. It would appear that your descriptions of both Reb and Dylan are fairly accurate. Thank you for this article.
Name withheld upon request
It seems to be the American defense to look for quick, simple, unequivocal answers to complex, poorly understood social dilemmas. As a current Jeffco school psychologist who has also worked in other public schools in another state, I feel compelled to offer a few observations, some of which, I hope, are so obvious as to be ridiculously apparent.
Public schools are microcosms of society. Although the pre-shooting Columbine atmosphere may have, as Prendergast suggests, uniquely contributed to what happened, societal expectations, values and prejudices are manifested every day on public-school campuses. Secondly, as a society, we are too sports-dependent to acknowledge that athletes and the competitive winning spirit are over-valued. Thirdly, we're too smugly complacent in our own insular worlds to recognize the rejection we dole out to those different from us. Finally, we're too afraid to examine the ways in which the veritable, cherished institutions (especially schools and churches) we love to laud actually perpetuate the kind of intolerance that eventually contributed to the tragedy. Such an exhaustive self-examination would be too painful and disturbing for us. Judging from what has been reported thus far, we are, unfortunately, not ready to open Pandora's box.
Alan Prendergast's article is the best writing I've seen to date on the horror that was April 20, 1999, at Columbine High. How much better informed would we be as a society if cooler heads such as Mr. Prendergast's had prevailed in the immediate telling of that story? In a rush to entertain and titillate, the brain-dead "news" combine left us all seriously under-informed and allowed the most strident voices to twist, obscure and manipulate what little was known as fact--and a lot that was merely wild speculation--into a sad fabric that served only as a dense curtain between us and the truth, which was adroitly exposed in this piece.
J. D. Goff
via the Internet
Regarding the August 5 Off Limits:
The most interesting aspect of Stephen Singular's book is the last chapter, where he details a man in jail who knows about the murder. Why won't DA Hunter interview this man? Why won't the FBI interview this man? Is it because the man is a computer expert with military connections? How much is child pornography on military and law-enforcement computers well-guarded from public scrutiny?
via the Internet
Trial by Gender
Regarding Juliet Wittman's July 15 "Dead Reckoning" and August 5 "A Sentence or a Question":
Michael Furlong should be the poster boy for men's-rights organizations that are trying to educate the public in the hidden problem of domestic abuse and judicial discrimination against men. His case is an example of the huge club wielded by women who abuse their men. It is the judicial system, and peacekeepers are the hand that holds it. It would be safe to say that every single person in this nation views the problem of domestic abuse through a sexually polarized filter. Why is it so difficult for Judge Frank Dubofsky, Boulder prosecutors and the general public to believe Michael's version of the events leading to the death of his wife? What about the wounds on Michael's back, neck and arms? Besides the wounds associated with a fall downstairs, how was Mrs. Furlong injured?
I would wager that she had no other wounds, and that is the reason the prosecutors could not prove Michael Furlong intentionally did it. It also begs the question of whom the active aggressor really was. Unfortunately for Michael Furlong, in the minds of prosecutors (and in their exact words, as quoted to me by an Aurora city attorney), just because they couldn't prove he did it doesn't mean he's not guilty. As for the troubling lack of remorse by Michael, let me answer, with the force of experience, that it is extremely difficult to feel remorseful about injuries suffered by an aggressor during an attack.
In law, there is what is known as the "but for" test. I say that but for Michael Furlong's gender, he would never have been prosecuted. If you deny this, think of two recent domestic-violence incidents reported in local papers. A female district attorney runs over her boyfriend in the driveway after an argument. This was found to be an accident. A male airline pilot runs over his wife in the driveway after having suffered an attack by her and is being charged with murder. Both victims reacted essentially the same way, but because of their gender, one is a victim and the other was stupid for standing behind the car.
Mail Order Criminals
In the article "Men in Dragnet," by T.R. Witcher, in the July 29 issue, Pam Russell asserts that Colorado taxpayers would not object to a slight increase in taxes in order to catch child molesters. This taxpayer does not object to such use of his tax dollars, provided the child molesters being caught reside in Colorado. To lure them in from out of state using that money is misuse, as far as I'm concerned.
If the Arvada Police Department does not have enough local crime to keep it busy, might I suggest a reduction in staff? That way, Arvada could hire a consultant to come up with a catchy slogan to attract new employers and employees to their city, such as, "Come to Arvada: Our crime rate is so low, our police officers have time to help old ladies across the street"--as opposed to saying, "Come to Arvada: We attract pedophiles from across the nation."
Michael Paglia wants to have his cake and eat it, too. In his review of the current exhibition at the CU Art Galleries, Post-War, Pre-Millennium: Selections From the Collection of the Denver Art Museum ("Flash Point," July 22), he complains about the lack of works by mainstream artists from the second half of this century. At the same time, however, his positive comments regarding the work of three Colorado artists included in the show would seem to contradict his claim that the exhibition consists of "oddball choices." If the show's focus were--as Paglia apparently thinks it ought to be--the greatest hits of post-war art, the work of these local artists would almost certainly have been omitted.
Fortunately, there is nothing of the overblown millennial blockbuster on view at the CU campus. Susan Krane's selection and installation are unexpected and fresh--an inspiring mixture of regional and national work.
As recent arrivals to Colorado, we were pleased to encounter an exhibition of such seriousness and vision. We were dismayed to see it reviewed in an amateurish, scattershot fashion in your pages.
Kelly Feeney and Mark Sofield
via the Internet
Kyle Wagner is right on the money again in her 2nd Helping review, "A Family Affair," in the August 5 issue! I discovered No No's about three years ago and am glad they are keeping the quality up, if not improving. The 2nd Helping is a great column--its reviews keep us going to places that are still great and help us avoid those that have taken a turn for the worse (think Wild Ginger).
via the Internet
Backwash, Not Whitewash
Regarding Laura Bond's July 29 Backwash: I read your article on the Denver music scene today and thought it gave a very accurate description of our community and general state of societal confusion and musical staleness. I think you speak for many people when you speak of the lack of surprise and innovation in the music that some kids are growing up on today. The mainstream music of the late Nineties has become so definable and non-adventurous that listeners have been forced to pick a style or two that they like and hang on to it for dear life. Unfortunately, the music that is being created hasn't proven itself to hold on to the listener.
It is people like you who are in the position to open people's ears. You have the rare power to be able to come out on a regular basis and tell the entire city your ideas and observations. I have heard someone speak out on the music scene without candy-coating it and trying not to step on anyone's feet. I think if everyone had a more straightforward attitude like that, there would be a lot less artists living on empty promises of millions of dollars and a lot more people just trying to communicate and rock.
via the Internet
Micropower to the People
Regarding Marty Jones's "End Transmission," in the July 29 issue:
I wholeheartedly agree with the idea that there should be an alternative to big-budget corporate radio stations like the sex-crazy ALICE, the drugged-out rocker station KBPI and the once-decent KTCL. I have completely stopped listening to radio stations, instead relying on the Internet to discover new bands. It shouldn't be this way. By bringing stations on the air with no hidden agenda or corporate intervention, we could finally have a radio station that actually has more music than propaganda and more talk about events in the community than about sex. I hope the FCC starts loosening up on LPFM and cracks down on what it needs to: the money-making sell-out stations that seem to fill the FM band.
via the Internet
I first heard of pirate radio broadcasting in an Institute for Justice newsletter: A rancher in North Dakota did not care for what was broadcast on the one radio station in his area, so he set up a low-power transmitter that he could pick up in his truck anywhere on his spread, and he arranged to rebroadcast Denver talk radio. His neighbors liked a choice in listening, too.
I understand that the FCC once used to license low-power stations. Lobbyists for the Corporation for Public Broadcasting and others persuaded the FCC to abolish that class of license.
In the silence of the Big Sky country of Montana and North Dakota, that sounds like bad public policy that ought to be reversed.
Letters policy: Westword wants to hear from you, whether you have a complaint or compliment about what we write from week to week. Letters should be no more than 200 words; we reserve the right to edit for libel, length and clarity. Although we'll occasionally withhold an author's name on request, all letters must include your name, address and telephone number. Write to:
P.O. Box 5970
Denver, CO 80217
or e-mail to: email@example.com.
Missed a story? The editorial contents of Westword, dating back to July 1, 1996, are available online at www.westword.com/archive/index.html.
Get the This Week's Top Stories Newsletter
Every week we collect the latest news, music and arts stories — along with film and food reviews and the best things to do this week — so that you’ll never miss Westword's biggest stories.
- Denver Development: What Will Happen to Emily Griffth School on Prime City Block?
- Pot Biz Crimes Outnumber Black Market Ones & More Denver Marijuana Stats
- Jason Tremblay Busted for Sex Try With (Fictional) Mom & Underage Daughters