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Thanks for the compliment, O.T., but you might hold off a day or two because I don't think we're quite done yet.

I heard some Columbine students interviewed on NPR last night. The first was a top student, editor of the school newspaper. She said she hadn't realized there was a group of students, outcasts it seemed, who wore black trenchcoats and did their own thing. There were maybe fifteen out of 1,950 students in the school. She was busy with her life, and activities, and group(s)which apparently didn't include theirs. Nothing unusual about this.

The other person was young Mr. Brown. His parents called the sheriff a year before to warn that Eric Klebold, one of the shooters, was violent. Brown and Klebold had a run in. Klebold smashed their windshield. Eventually the kids made up. But on the day of the shooting, Klebold told Brown to disappear, and then started shooting, sparing Brown.

Brown has been told to stay out of school. Students he runs into call him "killer" because he was close friends with Klebold. They figure he must have known the shooting was about to occur. After Brown's family criticized him for not following up the violence report, the sheriff called Brown a "suspect," which made things worse. Then the sheriff backed off. But Brown, who, as far as I can tell, is an innocent victim, is still ostracized, shunned, and generally treated like dirt by the good people.

Brown's view of the Littleton/Columbine community is similar to the one Art notes, above. What community? It's a group of groups,not a single community. And things aren't pretty. People who seem the least bit different are shunned and picked on by the enforcers, the jocks, apparently. Brown said it was fearsome to walk the school halls daily, to hear the taunts and threats. The young black boy, whose funeral I watched oh tv, Isaiah Sholes, who was murdered, apparently for his race, was repeatedly called "nigger" by his fellow students. Mr. D, the principal, says he was unaware. The Sholes family asks why he wasn't aware, as they'd complained about it. Maybe it was too hot an issue to touch for that community.

If Littleton/Columbine is supposed to teach anything, what should it be?

How about this business of shunning and taunting people who can't fit the preconceived mold of what it is to be correct and beautiful in today's society.

Is this any different from the way things were when you were in high school on StatNisland? Apart from the ready availability of guns, that is?

Are we the only country where kids go on shooting rampages in school?

That terrible incident in Scotland where a man shot up a kindergarten is different. He was an adult, not a student.

What did kids do before they had guns? Pull knives? Rocks? Bows and arrows?

Don't all people have murderous thoughts growing up? I can remember daydreaming, as a fourth grader in PS 29, about doing in Stalin, should he ever pass along Victory Boulevard in a motorcade on some state visit. Good thing they have ample security against juvenile and other crazy fantasies. My own guess is that any one of us is capable of doing some pretty bad things when we go out of whack.

What I want to know is, not about putting metal detectors, but about getting kids to lighten up about other kids.

Concerning metal detectors, a few observations. San Francisco City Hall had metal detectors twenty years ago when Mayor George Moscone and Supervisor Harvey Milk were murdered in their offices. Who was the murderer? Some disdained member of a disfavored group? Hardly. It was an ex-cop named Dan White, a young, married, Irish Catholic, father and elected official. He hated gays (Milk was gay) and after resigning his office over some point or other, decided he wanted it back, by reappointment from the mayor, who wasn't giving. So White shot them both. How did he get past the metal detector? He went in through a side window on the ground floor level of the building.

At the Hall of Justice, there are lines at the metal detector every morning when people are all rushing at once to get to court on time. Do the people who work in the building daily wait on the lines every day? Don't be silly. There's a police barricade and a big sign saying something like Police Line, Do Not Cross Under Pain of Instant Death. I can't quote it because I make a point of not reading it so if I'm ever challenged when I sidle past it, confidently, of course, I can say I don't know what it says. Usually I nod at the guard so he won't shoot. Talk about your tired old ethics.

Incidentally, San Francisco, being San Francisco, and all, has an organization that helps prostitutes get off the street and out of "the life," as it's called, named C.O.Y.O.T.E. for Call Off Your Old Tired Ethics.

So I think the student-shooting problem is going to require more than a Congressional appropriation to buy metal detectors. There aren't enough metal detectors in the world.

I think the approach is going to have to be to talk to kids who have grudges and antipathies rising to the level of major intolerance and risking violence.

How would you do this exactly?

Anyone with a practical answer to this question has my support for a Congressional appropriation in the amount of whatever it takes.

I note, incidentally, the shooting a month later, in Conyers, Georgia, the day that Pres. Clinton spoke in Littleton, Colorado. I watched the Prez on national tv. A fourteen year old boy with a grudge after losing his girlfriend of two years brought three guns to school, including a rifle, hidden in his baggy pants, they say. He hot six fellow students while seeming to be having a high old time. He stole the guns from his parents locked gun safe. So I'm not claiming that all guns should be confiscated, any more than baggy pants should.

I think it comes down to that question posed above. As the father of three boys, all around college age now, the best thing that ever happened to them was that they were so busy with academic studies, rowing crew, performing in the school plays, what with all the rehearsals, the orchestra, ditto, that they didn't have time to fall in with wrong friends and get into mischief. It was the constant supervision represented by group activities under adult supervision and decent friends also attracted to these activities that made for a big lack of trouble, for which I am very grateful and knock on wood.

This was a lot more influential than anything I can take credit for, as I wasn't around when they were doing them, like most parents I know who work for a living, which is all of them.


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