On last night’s program, Art Bell featured a woman who labeled this latest high school shooting a sign of the coming apocolypse, and that we have “Manchurian Candidate” children wandering the halls of our high school. I took offense and wrote him this letter. I don’t know if he’ll ever read it (he gets a lot of emails), or, if he does, if he’ll read it carefully, so I figured I’d post it here, hoping at least someone would get something out of it:
*First, the compliments. I’m new to AM radio, but in the few months I’ve listened, I’ve found you to be most amiable, most levelheaded, and least acerbic member of a motley crowd of gratingly self-centered talk-radio hosts. The kindness and patience you demonstrate, even when the quagmire of paranormal claims (the evidence for which is almost always indirectly proportional to their proponents’ zealousness) and rebuttals must threaten to swamp your sanity, are truly admirable traits. You always seem to find the time to give everyone, from the skeptic blinded by hopelessly impenetrable dogmatism, to the self-proclaimed “six-fingered alien anti-Christ,” his or her (or its, I suppose) fifteen minutes of AM fame. I truly like you as a person and wish you all the best.
Now…to March 5/6th’s program and its segue from blood-soaked Santana High to the apocalyptic musings of Kathleen Keating. I must take issue.
I am 21 years old, attending college, at least obstensively, and still attending to wounds suffered during my high school years. I say “obstensively” because, on my darker days, the unresolved issues and old pains experienced within the walls of ______ H.S. strand me in a past I fear I may never be able to fully abandon.
Let me be blunt: if you are physically weak, or poor, or eccentric, or in any way left of center, high school will break down your very self, will leave your ego in shambles, and, unlike the military, which purports to at least reconstruct, albeit according to its value system, will offer nothing to fill the void save a calligraphy scrawled roll of paper that may or may not assist you in your future endeavors, if you’ve the strength to face the future, that is. These precocious mass-murderers who have captured an already necrophilic nation’s attention with their uncanny aim and lack of remorse are not the pawns of an ancient evil, but are simply confused teenagers whose still nebulous moral systems have been confused by violent imagery and whose rage can now be vented in a hail of gunfire, an option once largely unavailable in comparison.
It angers me to hear a complex social phenomena reduced to Keeting’s dangerously glib doomsday forecast. Reason and logic and moral integrity aside, what millenarianists seem to lack more than anything is a sense of the past and, ironically, the future. To quote a song the title of which I can’t remember, “The good old days weren’t always good, and tomorrow’s not as bad as it seems.” Plagues of deadly buboes, the ebb and flow of calamitous weather patterns, social upheavals, and disturbing technological trends are nothing new. Example: the Great Depression of the 1930s and the sweeping corrosion of America’s farmland during the aptly named “Dust Bowl” all sandwiched between the two deadliest wars in human history, the rending of the atom and the searing, miles-high explosion that followed…if these weren’t “signs of the end times,” I don’t know what is. Yet, here humanity stands, irrevocably altered, but still existent. And, let me remind you, the year 2000 came and went without incident.
If conspicuous consumption, greed, and wanton violence were precursors to a grand, God-driven purging of civilization, the earth would have been awash in its own blood centuries ago. Of course, prophets of the Second Coming have an advantage in that, as long as he or she carefully straddles the line between time-tested vagaries and date-specific prognostications, he or she can never be “wrong.” The danger these sorts of frenzied, unfounded philosophies court is a dissemination of the idea that we live in a world that deserves destruction, that this realm is hopeless, and that, either consciously or subconsciously, allowing admittedly disastrous behaviors to continue (pollution, for one) will ultimately (and paradoxically) lead to the creation of a paradise. Whether this is an inborn reaction to civilization’s inclination towards increased complexity, and therefore entropy, or whether this is Keeting and company’s only way of dealing with America’s post-Christian environment, it is speculation borne of fear and ignorance, and it damages more than it helps.
But back to the high school shootings…Keeting’s claim that these are “Manchurian Candidates” flies in the face of my personal experience and diminishes my pain and my struggles. It also diverts attention from the true evils: the lack of respect for the less fortunate, a destructive trait teenagers so often display, the laughably easy availability of guns, and a image driven, violence fueled entertainment industry that foments and stealthily encourages dark fantasies. As long as superstition supersedes badly needed intervention and social reforms, and as long as the media gorges itself on these sorts of aberrations (I‘m not saying you‘re doing this, because you only mentioned the shooting once), they will continue until they are no longer aberrations, but instead common occurrences, which will in turn fuel the fires of doomsday prophecy, which will in turn lead us closer and closer to an Armageddon of our own making.
I was there, Art, in the war zone. Don’t ask Keeting. She just doesn’t know.
But I do.