|A few thoughts on
Colorado's state flower, the Columbine
Photo courtesy of mountainlake.com
I'm sure that the concept of original sin had fallen from favor long before I was a kid in the 1960s. There is something in our nature that resists the idea of children being born with evil in the core of their being, unredeemable apart from an act of God. We want to think of children as naturally good and innocent. Yet anyone who spent part of their lifetime as a child should know from personal experience how casually cruel and unthinking children can be. We discipline and educate kids to make them civilized - they don't come that way.
Perhaps there is also something in our nature that fears those who are different. A quick scan of any daily newspaper will illustrate this fact. A conflict here, a war there. And the source? Different race, ethnicity, culture, religion, language, mode of dress, political ideology, whatever. If there is a difference between two groups, someone will find a reason to start a fight over it. And if one group perceives itself to be a long-oppressed minority, the results can be explosive.
So it's alarming to me that "the experts" look at the terrible tragedy at Columbine High School and jump to whatever conclusion will support their own pet agenda. The anti-gun people say that guns are the problem. The psychiatrists say we need more counselors in the schools. The politicians want to pass a few more laws.
What no one wants to do is look at the high school culture that punishes the intelligent kids, and exalts the jocks. A recent article on Slashdot included a compilation of email the writer had received from kids on the receiving end of this warped culture. Kids around the country who have the intelligence and prescience to see what the reporters and shrinks and school administrators don't, are being silenced by expulsion, censorship, psychiatric evaluation and general overreaction.
My own insight as a teen provided a point of light at the end of my particular tunnel. The kids who were the "in crowd" in elementary school were the "out crowd" by junior high. The junior high "in crowd" was yesterday's leavings by high school. So, I reasoned, that by college, the high school "in crowd" would be old news. All I had to do was survive until it was my turn. I was quietly amused years later when I returned to my home town to find a member of the high school "in crowd" cutting yard goods in a fabric store, while I was making three or four times her salary in a high tech job in Dallas.
We pay millions of dollars to men who hit each other in a boxing ring, or who run into each other on the football field. In reality, if people simply lost interest in boxing and football tomorrow, our lives would not be greatly damaged. On the other hand, our lives and our country would be immeasurable damaged if we stop producing people who are intelligent, innovative, quirky, artistic, insightful, innovative or technical.
Jesus commanded us to love each other. Not love as an emotion. Love as an action, as a choice. Love from the head rather than the heart. He commanded us to love our neighbor as much as we loved ourselves. Well, none of us would choose to be persecuted, to be the butt of cruel jokes, threats and humiliation. Persecuting intelligent young people or condoning that persecution as "the way things have always been" is at its core, wrong. And it needs to stop.
Paul Graham's incisive commentary, Why Nerds Are Unpopular, sheds some interesting light on this subject and is well worth reading.
Previous Au Naturel essays
A few thoughts on Columbine High
King of the Anoles
A Turtle's Fancy
Winter in Texas
Harbingers of Spring
Copyright © 1999-2003 Susan Chance-Rainwater