TREND Magazine: Navagation Bar

Jeff the Baptist, vol. 1, #10

When the Village Fails

I’m numb.

No matter how many times I look at the coverage, no matter how many conversations I have about it, I just can’t get used to the idea. Strolling through the halls, choosing a person from the crowd, and then shooting them at point blank? Placing the muzzle up against the temple and pressing the trigger? Again and again and again?

Why?

Why?

What goes through a mind capable of such evil, we wonder. To not only wreak such destruction, but plan it far beforehand. . .to dream about it, revel in the thought of it. . .to savor the prospect of creating so much suffering. . . What kind of mind is capable of this?

For me, it was an issue of love. With every press of the trigger, with each bullet exploding from the muzzle, with every blast of a pipe bomb, I hear a scream of pain. It is a howl. It is a shriek. From deep, deep within Eric and Dylan it comes. It asks, "When will I, too, be loved?" For me, with every detail laid in their horrible and sick plan, with every ghastly smile over one more fallen, these two lost souls showed their need to be accepted.

Because they could not find love and acceptance in their community, they found it in the worship of a dead maniac and in the arms of their trench-coated brethren. Just as I believe that we experience the love of God in each other, I believe that Eric and Dylan, searching for that love, expressed their deep longing in this orgy of destruction.

But what to do now? How do we go forward?

I see two ways ahead for us. One very dark and grim, the other much more creative and life-giving.

The first way is a reliance on security. We could build higher walls in the belief that someday a height may be reached that will make our children safe. Our schools and playgrounds, once scenes of joyful laughter, will become filled with the buzzes of metal detectors and the squelches of two-way radios. But I think this way will fail. We can’t build walls that high.

Our Eric and Dylan now join the ranks of our lost from Bethel, Pearl, West Paducah, Jonesboro, Pomona, Fayetteville, Springfield, Richmond and, even now, in the rash of prank calls about bombs and hit lists sweeping our nation’s high schools. Will we see more Littletons? We may.

Just as Eric and Dylan designed an act sure to capture the headlines for days following the execution of it, there may very well be other Erics and other Dylans reading the same newspapers that we are, planning something bigger.

In the surreal logic of those who will do anything to be remembered, the next Eric and Dylan know that they have to top Columbine. If they don't, the commentators will sagely point out that their incident amounted to merely "the worst since Littleton." And thus we could go on, growing into a steadily spiraling, ever-widening, circle of violence.

The other way is one of reclaiming our communities. Somehow we’ve lost something integral to them. I don’t believe it is irrevocably lost. Not for a second. But I do believe it’s gone now, and only we can bring it back. Somehow we’ve lost the trust that is the paving stone, the foundation, of a community. We have retreated behind the high fences and walls of our right to privacy. We have moved our evening front porch conversations with the neighbors to barbeques on the deck in the back with friends and clients. We’ve lost the art of knowing one another.

Just as we experience the love of God in how we treat one another, our children are no different. They experience the love of God, as they experience us. We have put such a premium on the privacy of the individual that we have forgotten how to love the children of our neighborhoods. We’ve forgotten how to care for them. We’ve forgotten the simple joys of talking with the boy down the street asking how school is going.

I believe that had our communities not lost that art of knowing one another, Eric and Dylan would not have turned to destruction in their vain attempt to find affirmation. I believe that had they found understanding in our communities, instead of the slaughterers of our innocents they would have become the healers of our wounded. I also believe that it is not too late to prevent others from making the choice that Eric and Dylan did.

For inspiration, I take stories such as this one: I recently heard of the struggles of a family whose eight year old son is dying of leukemia. A nose-bleed at school signaled the dashed hopes of a life without relapse. His time with his family is expected to be very short. In their pain, his family decided to get away and be together for as much time as they can. In the face of adversity, they were trying to stand.

And then the village picked them up. Recently, a crowd of about a hundred formed outside their home. Friends, family and neighbors gathered to give the family a large check, complete with air tickets, hotel stay and Disneyland passes, all donated. We all know the money doesn’t matter. What does is that the village dropped what it was doing and came running in this time of sorrow, this time of pain.

I applaud their example. It gives me hope in the wake of such tragedies like Littleton.

I also can’t help but ask whether we need wait for the times of sorrow to gather. How many Littletons would be prevented if our village gathered in times of joy as well? How many would be prevented if we gathered daily? How many would be prevented if we knew each other so well that we didn’t have to gather to know we are loved?

It’s our village, isn’t it?

 

- Jeff the Baptist

 

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