Staten Island Web logo

I think you're really nailing it, Art.

I'm particularly struck by the following:


1. Community is a process, not a product.

2. Loss of intimacy counts; instead of being able to share feelings we hide them, nurse them secretly, and finally act them out. Result: tragedy.

3. Each of us has a dark side that we must control unless we want to become Klebold and friend.


O.T., you make an important point, family counts. There's an expression, "...from one of our better families..." used to describe someone by referring to his, or her, family context. What is a "better family?"


I can recall coming in contact with the offspring of distinguished families but who were all screwed up and in big trouble to boot. Both were screwed up, the family and the kid, not all because of circumstances they created, either.

What I learned was that the better, or best, families are not the wealthiest or most prominent. The best families are the ones which succeed in encouraging and supporting their members through the ups-and-downs of life, regardless of the cause of the downs.


I wonder how much disfunction will grow out of homes destroyed by hurricanes in Oklahoma or ethnic cleansing, rape and murder in the Balkans. What can we expect, a generation of human grenades waiting to explode? Or will they survive, with the support of family and culture, fit to live in society without blowing, the way we often see.

I think of the boat people who fled Vietnam after the Fall of Saigon in '74. That was 25 years ago, wow. They fled their home for the perils of the sea, and ran into pirates who raped, stole, and murdered. They lived in camps in the Philippines and Thailand until slowly they were allowed into the U.S. in some measure. They hoped to make a life after a way of life was destroyed. What has become of them? Many have settled in to places like San Jose, California (Silicon Valley) and made lives for themselves, among Vietnamese neighbors and community. Many began new families and their kids are in college and working.

Amazing resilience after atrocities.

People may be tougher than we think.

The ability to put bad things to the back of the mind in order to focus on the daily tasks of survival may be one of the great features of the human mind.


Researchers in the science of the evolutionary development of the human species are exploring whether and how social development contribute to evolutionary success. They ask how language development, family development, community development, and industrial development, from agriculture to the internet, contribute to the success of the species.


Families that imbue their offspring with a sense that they can survive disaster because somehow they must, qualify as among our best families, regardless of wealth or standing.
Maybe I'd better qualify that, as dog-eat-dog survival alone doesn't seem very edifying. I think that we want to see a few things beyond the ability to survive trouble. We also want to see people who can function well and get along in society, after they survive, otherwise it might be better if they don't survive. I don't want to see too many more Stalins, Hitlers, and Milosevics, survivors all.


I'd like to see the family and community process that Art and O.T. mention include the idea that differentness is okay. As adults we're not very concerned about differentness, for ourselves and others. It's a big world and there's a lot of room.

As a teenager, it's different. Kids are terribly afraid of being ousted from their peers and shunned for being different. My dad couldn't get me to wear a hat in winter to Curtis High School, no matter how freezing it was. Hats weren't cool and you'd wind up having it taken and thrown around the bus and having to fight to get it back. It wasn't worth it. I couldn't get my kids to wear a hat to school when it's cold. For the same reason. Isn't that ironic.


Adults rarely practice shunning in an organized sense. Some of the Pennsylvania Dutch church sects shun members who act or believe differently. It's a terrible thing. Institutionalized intolerance.

I say "rarely," but I wonder how rare it really is.


We do a lot of moving around in this country. In Europe there are little villages whose ancient residents would recognize the people in them today, so little have they moved around. Here we don't even recognize our neighbors. We drive to church and the store and to school. We're a nation of strangers. Tragedy and snowstorms bring us together. In a previous generation, it was Pearl Harbor that did it.

We tend to compartmentalize people who act "differently." The people who like to act flamboyantly and dance and sing and act wind up in communities like Hollywood and artistic communities here and there. They stand out like sore thumbs, with purple spiked hair, rings through nipples, etc., among the normal, straight, more bourgeois types like us perhaps.


My view is more power to them. Let 'em flaunt it. I wouldn't have said this back at Curtis, I would have scorned it. I used to think Allen Ginsburg and his marijuana proselityzing and counter-culture positions were so far out in left field as to be something to disregard entirely, or otherwise give short shrift. Now it turns out that he was speaking for a set of feelings that was widely shared in the land. Who was I to say it was wrong. I think when we see something that approaches a movement we'd better pay attention and ask what's going on, just in case they might be right to one degree or another.

I used to disdain the anti-Vietnam war protesters, too. Long-haired, tie-died, dope-smoking hippies. Another of my mistakes. They were a lot more right than I was for holding back.

The lesson, to me, is to deal with the folks who want to do things differently, without stepping on them.

I fear that high school is a place where people get stepped on.


I noted that Klebold and Harris were omitted from mention at the Columbine graduation yesterday. They would have graduated. Also that the 14-year-old in Conyers, Georgia, who shot six classmates is being prosecuted as an adult.

Looks like the same old mind-set hardening again. Kids are kids and adults are adults. Shunning is not a good idea.

I was reading something in the Sunday paper about people who minister to those on death row. People who well-deserve to be on death row, I might add. One of the ministers quoted Sister Jean Prejean (portrayed by Susan Sarandon in "Dead Men Walking") to the effect that a person is more than his worst deed.


This is truly a higher sensibility in a crude world. It demands a lot more than many of us, including me, are necessarily prepared to give.


I guess we've got a long way to go.


Staten Island WebŪ Forums Index.