The Trenchcoat Mafia and the Knee - Jerk Know-it-alls.
The tragedy in Littleton, Colorado on April 20, 1999 is, up to that date, the worst massacre that has occurred in an American school. 15 lives were lost at Columbine High School, which included 12 students and 1 teacher, plus the two young attackers who were also students there. Others were seriously wounded- about 20 physically, and millions emotionally.
And while the bodies are still cooling and blood boiling, the people in positions of power and decision making are doing their very best to embarrass the entire nation once again.
Early on, as the events were still unfolding in the school, the media had served up a brand-new catch phrase for us to latch hold of, and ultimately blame for all the ills of society. Born was the infamous term, 'Trenchcoat Mafia'. Rolled into just five syllables…just two words…was all the evil of mankind, a new doorstep to lay our blind rage on.
But what was (or scarier, IS ) this 'Trenchcoat Mafia' (T.M.)? As the press would like, shall we equate it with longtime hate groups like the KKK or the ultra-violent Skinheads? Sure, why not. We gave 'Joanie and Chachi' their own sitcom….we're dumb enough to believe anything!
When tempers fade and clear-thinking returns to some of us (not all, as some will never wise-up), we'll see this act for what it really was. Two teenagers…a little geeky…a little 'different'. They felt 'left out' by their peers as so many kids do. There's always an 'in' crowd and these kids weren't it. Most kids in this situation simply hurt for a time, learn to tolerate their situation, and after graduation, move on (often to the working world where the same class-structure mentalities continue to govern everything we do…the curse of capitalism, sadly).
But every once in a while, one of these shunned kids doesn't possess the self-control to ignore the attitudes of their peers. They feel they've done nothing to deserve their status (and often are correct in that assumption) and they don't possess that one little mental check-valve that prevents the rest of us from lashing out. These kids snap and go over the edge.
It's not a matter of placing fault, because the class system exists throughout life, and those in the positions to place blame are usually the ones that when in school, were the popular ones…and through the media and legislators that they control, will always lay the blame on the geek with the gun. It's easier that way. They get to believe all they do is right, and that they knew all along that there was something weird about that kid. These same people are the ones that taunt the neighbor's dog over and over…and when it finally attacks, they want the dog destroyed for being vicious. It's this mentality that pushes the outcast to extremes. 'The world is setup to make me fail, and I have no recourse but to destroy it'.
These kids aren't 'insane'. In fact, their thoughts are very clear. It's the rest of us that are so muddied in our thinking that we absorb the script read by the news people as un-arguable facts…without question. We automatically equate long, black coats with the tragedy in Littleton and in typical knee-jerk style, ban such clothing from the nation's schools. A kid in Newton, New Jersey showed up in school the day after the shootings, wearing a long, black coat. He was ordered to the principals office, detained and questioned by local Police, then sent home and told he could not return if wearing that coat. Why had he worn it? It was raining, and it had always been the coat he wore in bad weather. He hadn't done anything wrong, but the school and police did. Had that boy been my son, I'd have gone back with him to the school, wearing a similar coat myself, and it would be headlines if we'd been refused entry.
Ban the guns, ban the coats…that'll solve the problem! Why don't we ban all knives…lots of folks are stabbed every year. Even more are killed by cars…let's all walk from now on! I've learned that whenever a 'ban' is suggested by someone, all further statements from that person are irrelevant, and should be ignored, as they don't know how to make rational, intelligent decisions. No matter what you ban- and go ahead, think of ANYTHING that you know of that is currently banned- name it…and I'll go out and get you one. Laws will never prevent anything. All laws do is make it a bit more expensive to acquire the item. Drugs are illegal…yet you can get them anywhere. Child porn is illegal, and you can download plenty of it on the Internet or order it via good ol' US Mail. Everyone wants the easy answer. 'Just make it stop'. Sorry, Jack the Ripper had no TV, no computer, and no assault rifle. Video games like 'DOOM', movies like 'Natural Born Killers' and automatic weapons didn't exist yet...but he made do just fine.
Governor Jesse Ventura suggested that a well-trained, armed guard might have been able to halt the Littleton attack…and caught Hell for suggesting it. He later apologized and offered that NO guns belong in schools. Well, he was right the first time and we all know it. The media offered, as proof that Ventura was wrong, that there was an armed guard in the school and that he did indeed fire his weapon…yet it didn't prevent the tragedy. What the press ignores is two-fold. First, Ventura didn't say to give a minimum wage, 2-hour-trained 'guard' a gun and let him shoot whomever he likes. He suggested a professional observer, a sharp-shooter trained to handle such situations and to take down attackers when absolutely necessary. I'll bet the parents of the 12 dead kids wish such a guy had been in Columbine that day. Second, the press doesn't indicate how well the guard did when he was forced to shoot. For all we know from the report, he IS as competant as the guard Ventura suggested, and his shots scared the attackers, who then retreated to the Library and shot themselves. Had this guy NOT fired, might the killings gone on longer? If so, wasn't his armed presence a great help? Again, the press gives us only enough to form an opinion that agrees with theirs.
Kids rebel..it's their born-in biological clock telling them they are maturing to the point that parents are no longer needed for their survival. That's nature..grow up, move on. But humans decided they were smarter than nature…that we'd bend it to our whims (much as Titanic's builders thought), and our kids are our kids for life. We make them stay in the nest too long, and they become frustrated….then rebel. Some just stay out late and argue…these are the ones that are a pain in the ass. They cut their hair (or refuse to cut it), pick friends we hate and wear weird clothes……..like black trenchcoats. And that's perfectly normal. The 'T.M.' is no more than a click of pals that coined a name for themselves, and others adopted to use in labeling them. The term was probably loved by the kids in the group….until others outside started using it as such a label, in derogatory ways.
When I say 'AMC', it rolls out cheerful and respectful. When GM-fans say 'AMC', it's with mocking derision.
It's not what you say, but how you say it that gives meaning to a statement. Comedian Benny Hill used varying inflection to make a classic, romantic statement into a perverted one- "WHAT is this thing called 'Love'?" asks for a definition of the word 'love'. Mis-read as 'What is THIS THING called, Love?' is a woman unsure of what that bulge is in her male friend's pants. Comedian George Carlin once quoted an un-named source as saying 'the same words that are used to hurt can be used to heal'. He further went on to explain that words themselves can not be 'bad words'. Bad thoughts, bad intentions, …and 'words'. A funny example is that it's okay to 'prick your finger' but it's not okay to 'finger your prick'.
So 'T.M.' was a badge of honor among the small group's members, as a trio of girls that always hangs out together, goes shopping..whatever…might call themselves the 'Terrible Threesome'. If one day, one of these girls snapped and shot a neighbor, would this silly moniker, 'Terrible Threesome' be equated with the Neo-Nazis? Would the other two be hounded and marked as members of the other's sick group?
How many of us have said, in a very serious-sounding tone, that we're going to 'kill you' to someone? 'I'll kick your ass!'….but we really wouldn't. Heck, we never meant it at all. We were just venting anger.
Then we have the 1990s witch-hunters, decrying the Internet as the Devil's playground….it must be stopped! All that free speech and available information…..it's just wrong! This is the typical rant used by persons that don't know about something, and thus label it as 'bad'. Most people have absolutely no idea what the Wicken religion is all about, yet when they hear that members are 'witches', they picture the Wizard of Oz and green skin. This is Knee-jerk politics. 'That which we do not know, is evil, and shall be banished'. Get a computer, look around the web for GOOD and you'll find plenty. Look for BAD, you'll find that, too. Sorta like REAL LIFE, no? The web is a tool. What a person does with that tool is the issue. We can all go buy a great steak knife set. We're not all evil because we own knives that COULD kill.
What a travesty that the website of one of the shooters was immediately wiped off the web. Here, again, the public would have been able to read, un-censored and un-editted, this boy's words….his thoughts. Rather than one or two phrases carefully chosen by the media to make him sound 'clearly deranged', we'd see how much more complicated his thinking was..how he reasoned. We might learn something about him and ourselves…and our friends. Perhaps, something found their would have alerted us to others in out midst that are on the edge of lashing out the same way. We on the 'good' side have lost a great tool for our own defense.
I don't hunt or own a gun myself. I'm actually steadfast against hunting as a 'sport' just as I would be in a soccer match where only one team gets to use a scoped rifle- hardly sporting. But guns aren't responsible for the killing of deer, bear…or humans. They are a tool as well. Misused, they bring tragedy. Properly used, they'll HELP to defend your home and your family. People are ultimately responsible for the horrors they inflict with their tools.
The in-crowd at school used the 'T.M.' moniker against it's members as a way of equating the coats with those they found inferior, much as we now equate it with violence and evil. Don't be so damn gullible. A coat is a coat, and the 'T.M.' title is nothing more than that…a title.
You read this far down, thinking perhaps a little of what I've said here makes sense, and like a good TV-watcher, you're expecting I'll end this with the big finale…where Sam Donaldson and Diane Sawyer give you all the answers to life's troubles in a 30-second closing statement. Call a hotline, make a donation….don't forget to vote.
Sorry. Real life isn't so simple. There will always be the 'in' crowd, there will always be the 'outcasts'. And every once in a while, someone unwilling to accept this is going to snap…and that person alone is the problem. You won't prevent it, you won't stop it. You can only hope to be far away from it when it happens. There are some things we mere humans will never control.
Condolences to everyone touched by this senseless tragedy. May you all find peace somehow.