“She would have been a good woman,” the Misfit said, “if it had been somebody there to shoot her every minute of her life.” Those were the words an escaped convict spoke over the lifeless body of a self-absorbed grandmother.
The statement in Flannery O’Connor’s short story, “A Good Man Is Hard To Find,” suggests that goodness only comes to the fore in certain people when death is staring them in the face. Were O’Connor alive today, she might have to revise that thought.
April 20th was the seventh anniversary of the day in 1999 when Dylan Klebold and Eric Harris killed thirteen innocent people at Columbine High School in Littleton, Colorado. This year five teenagers in rural Kansas picked that date to carry out a similar massacre. A few days later a handful of seventh-graders—yes, seventh graders—in a small Alaska community were rounded up for hatching a similar plan.
Almost as depressing as these foiled attempts at homicide were the comments that some adults made about them. One school official gave thanks that “a student felt they could talk to an adult.” The PC grammar of this benediction blends seamlessly with its presumption about kids who are reluctant to betray their peers—even those contemplating mass murder. What could be worse, after all, than being known as a snitch?
Even more discouraging was this remark made by an Alaskan police chief: “People are people. Something like this can happen anywhere…”
Unfortunately, events like this have happened throughout the United States. Last November in Campbell County, Tennessee, a fifteen-year-old shot and killed an assistant principal and wounded two others. And in March of 2005, Minnesota’s Red Lake Indian Reservation became the scene of a slaughter that left five students and two adults dead—all killed by a 16-year-old.
Other post- and pre-Columbine locations include Santee, California, Springfield, Oregon, Pearl, Mississippi, and Jonesboro, Arkansas. That partial list doesn’t include, of course, “unsuccessful” plots like those in Kansas and Alaska. .
The truly breathtaking part of the officer’s statement was his glib observation that “people are people”—as if kids randomly shooting their classmates is part of the human condition.
Are adults really so mindless as to believe this nonsense? Children in the United States weren’t turning schools into mortuaries two generations ago. Nor can one rattle off a string of cites in Japan or Italy where barely pubescent males have planned or carried out mass killings at school.
Yet faced with horrors that occur with astounding regularity, many Americans seem to have accepted barbarism as a fact of life. “People are people!” Such folks could be shot every day of their lives and still remain oblivious to the depths of the cultural depravity around them. Even mass juvenile murder is preferable to the truth.