Between the Lines

Between the Lines By David Lias The world, it appears, is going to hell in a handbasket.

The situation in Kosovo is going from bad to worse. A madman there is conducting ethnic cleansing and driving thousands of people out of his country.

An so far, there doesn't seem to be anything we can do about it. Forget the fact that we have a highly technological military machine supposedly at work against the evils in Kosovo right now.

The game just keeps changing there. Kosovo's government, fraught with evil intentions, keeps changing the rules. The problem has changed from the murder of innocent citizens to their outcast from their homeland, which may be what Milosevic has intended all along.

After witnessing the unpredictability of the Yugoslav leader, should we really be surprised that a couple of misguided youths in American society are capable of carrying out carnage against their fellow students? Is the U.S. immune from evil?

A growing school of thought suggests that what happened in suburban Denver is just the most vivid, dramatic display of what we've all exhibited more and more in small ways every day among our peers.

The loss of civility, the intolerance for differences, the quickness to anger. The willingness to offend or damage or punish others who seem so unreasonable.

The sense that we are alone against the world, that we can trust no one, that everybody's out to get us. The acceptance of violence as the inevitable solution.

It's us against them. Take them out before they take you.

Eric Harris and Dylan Klebold lived out the grisly revenge fantasy of every road-raging, fist-slamming, not-going-to-take-it-anymore angry American. It was Waco, Oklahoma City and the Unabomber all rolled into one rush of insanity on Hitler's birthday.

Everybody wants a villain, a symbol of evil that can be locked up, wiped out, eliminated.

We want to pass a law or fire a principal, arrest a parent or find a drug to cure the plague that caused the tragedy at Columbine High School.

We want an answer.

The experts are weighing in with their opinions: There are too many guns, they say, or not enough. The schools are too demanding or too lax. The parents are too busy or too lazy or too meek or too harsh or too indulgent. Check one.

The law is barbaric or maybe it's utterly permissive.

There are too many violent movies, TV shows, video games and Internet sites.

Athletics are too elitist, academics too pedestrian. There's too much homework, too many part-time jobs, nothing for kids to do.

It's all of these things, and it's none of them. Take your pick.

Every one of us who has reared adolescents knows of the worry. There are long nights when you wonder how to get through to them. You wonder if their monosyllabic responses are a sign of problems. You wonder if their surliness is normal.

Part of growing up is separating from parents. But a sense of alienation is also a sign of becoming a sociopath. How's a parent to know the difference?

And what if the parents share that sense of isolation? What if they feel hostility toward people around them who might not agree with them and might even challenge their way of life?

The fools are all around them, cutting them off on the interstate, yelling on talk radio, pushing ahead in line at the fast food restaurant, talking too loud in the movie theater, electing idiots to public office. Makes you just want to …

Still, amid all the ghastly cold-blooded behavior, there were stunning examples of humanity and compassion.

There were teachers and students who risked their lives to help one another.

There were doctors, nurses and police officers who worked without food or sleep to save the lives of hundreds of people. There were parents and neighbors who wrapped their arms around each other to comfort those whose lives had been torn apart.

People far-removed from Littleton, CO were also deeply moved. The Vermillion School District's Instrumental Music Department presented its all-school band extravaganza Tuesday night as scheduled. The program wasn't presented as if we in Vermillion all live in a vacuum, however.

Middle School band instructor Becky Rider took a moment, at the end of the concert, to remind the capacity audience in the Vermillion High School gymnasium that, although evil may raise its ugly head from time to time in our society, it need not conquer us.

"I know you join us in remembering the students, teachers, families and community whose lives have been shattered by a senseless act of a few teenagers," she said. "I want you to remember something else, though. I want you to remember that tonight, in South Dakota, 300 young people gathered together to make music. They come to school every day, or close to it," Rider said, "eager to learn, and we are fortunate to work with them. When you hug them tonight, give them an extra squeeze for us."

The hatred, the divisiveness, the rage didn't destroy our last shreds of decency.

Bookmark the permalink.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

You may use these HTML tags and attributes: <a href="" title=""> <abbr title=""> <acronym title=""> <b> <blockquote cite=""> <cite> <code> <del datetime=""> <em> <i> <q cite=""> <strike> <strong>