Keeping Up With The Jonesboros
By Wil Forbis
I've actually been in a tizzy this week for subjects to write about. I was all set to go on a stirring comparison essay dissecting Sabbath (as in Black Sabbath, the band, not some pointless, archaic holiday) into individual eras as determined by their three singers Ozzy Osbourne, Ronnie James Dio and the much maligned Tony Martin (To those of you who have been so hard on this fellow, I ask you, please take one more opportunity to listen to "The Eternal Idol," and do so with an open mind.) but at mid-week a strange turn of events caused my to switch subjects and offer my verbal calibrations on an entirely different breed of iguana. The topic at hand being the Arkansas school shootings, in which five people were killed by two slightly post toddler gun-men, dressed in khaki fatigues, in an attempt to recreate a imaginary Chuck Norris action film along the lines of Missing In Action #17, Thirsty For Vengeance (and Grape Kool-Aid.) Of course, in this case the proposed cannon fodder were not Red-eyed Asian communists or German Stormtroopers, but the much less threatening visage of mostly school age girls of whom these junior commandos made waste.
My thoughts on the subject started with this haphazard conversation I entered into at a downtown bus stop, with a slightly inebriated young man, emblazoned in a faded Garth Brooks T shirt, who was offering his imperious life observations to city dwellers as well as occasional blasts of his breath, which featured the aroma of only the finest cheap wine.
"Did you hear about the atrocity?" he queried me as I leaned over to read the then fresh headline on the subject.
"You mean the shooting" I replied, being that it was the only current atrocity that leapt to my mind. Well, that and the fact that Boogie Nights had lost its Oscar nomination for Best Prosthetic Genitalia to another one of those dreary Jane Austin flicks.
"Not just the shooting," the man replied. But the kill ratio. "Them boys fired 27 shots and only killed five. What kind of accuracy is that?"
"Oh..." I stated. "I hadn't thought of it that way. What would you suggest?"
"Good marksmanship training," the man replied. "Those fellows needed a proper authority figure like their father or the Boy Scouts to teach them how to hit a target with prime accuracy. That's how we won Viet Nam!"
"Hmmm..." I mused, questioning his Boy Scout equation. "Maybe the Boy Scouts wouldn't let them in cuz they were gay agnostics, like Harvy Fierstein. And they weren't allowed to get the appropriate instruction."
At this point the fellow did what I have seen many do when confronted by the solid reasoning or my arguments: He sat down in the middle of the sidewalk and went to sleep. It's a common reaction when face with oration of my caliber, and I'm sure the two bottles of Nighttrain he'd consumed in front of me hadn't helped.
But, in a roundabout way, my drunken friend had touched on a subject that came up in conversations I had for the next couple days: Was it a lack of solid authority that caused these immoral actions, or was it simply that the authority figures themselves were distorted, handing down corrupted and invalid values to two young impressionable minds? (Keep in mind that an authority figure can be anything from a parent to a television set, in fact the two seem more and more interchangable. You haven't lived till you've seen my mom recreate some of the classic "I Love Lucy" episodes. Especially the one where Lucy disguises herself as a...)
But, in short, the question that seemed to take up much of people's thought of last week was: Why would two people, nay children, do such a thing?
What interested me was where most people put the blame. It went to the parents, to the violent media, to underfunding in schools (It was a real shame when they cut "How Not To Massacre Your Classmates 101") Very little of it went where I felt it belonged, that being the children themselves. "What!" you screech. "How can you blame the children, sweet little moppets that they are, walking tabula rasas until they are filled with society's trash?"
The truth is, I just never seen childhood as that innocent. The argument that children are lovable, fuzzy sweethearts until they get corrupted by big ol' society has never found its place with me. If anything, I think the opposite is true. Children are by nature, greedy, manipulative, ego-centered monsters until society puts at least some degree of respect and manners into them. And I don't say this out of hate for kids, or fear, but mostly on the belief that four thousand years of "society" is simply not enough to erase the millions of years of primal encoding that has been put into the human "animal." Most of our genetic history was spent in a world where greed was good, in fact necessary, for species survival. (I guess by admitting that I'm an evolutionist, I've assured I'll never be allowed in the California Boy Scouts, but I've never been much for being sodomized by strangers anyway.) Killing was a way of life, and an instinct for it had to be sharpened to exist. Pacifism, as a weapon, was simply not an option.
But apparently, that's a very bitter pill to swallow. We want to believe that our children are going to be better than us, that they are above violence and incapable of acts of terror. And that's why the news that a relatively small amount of people where killed in a docile, mid western state shot to the front of the headlines in papers across the nation. What made the news was a combination of two factors: Who did the killing (Lord, five people are killed in L.A every ten minutes, but you rarely hear about the individual cases.) and Where. (In the Ugandan army of religious leader Joseph Cory, children are reportedly hacking up adults and each other with loaded impunity. But Uganda is a far ways from Arkansas.)
We want to think children are little angels and that childhood is a joyous time, perhaps to delude ourselves into thinking WE were angelic as children and had a grand old time. But, really, who can truly recall a blissful youth? (If you can, I hate you.) A large portion of my childhood was spent dodging taunts, beatings and even knife threats by the gigantic Samoans that occupied the Public Schools of my then residence Honolulu Hawaii. (Ironically, a sizable portion of today's kids would probably give their teeth to be threatened with knives as opposed to Mach 10s.) Some of the most vicious, vindictive behavior I ever saw committed was by the hands of ten year olds. Did they come from lousy families with no role models or parental guidance? Maybe. But the point is, for whatever reason, kids are not saints despite our desire to see them so. (Come to think of it, one of the youngest Saints of all, Joan of Arc, earned her stripes by slashing and cutting her way across France.) And it could be that it is the desire to adulate children, to put them on pedestals of innocence, that makes people blind to the homicidal tendencies that nurtured themselves into these jr. Charles Whitmans of Arkansas. I'm sure, many people will fault the parents of these youths, and more than likely they deserve their fair share of guilt, but who would want to realize they were harboring a time bomb waiting to explode in their ten year old son?
So certainly, we can put the blame on the kids, we can put in on the parents, and we can put the blame on the eternal menace of "society." But if we really want to change things perhaps we should examine putting the blame in one of the least looked places. Our own good nature, our desire to see only the good in children. Because at least this time, it created a blindness that could not see until it was too late.
Children are evil.
Wil Forbis is a well known international playboy who lives a fast paced life attending chic parties, performing feats of derring-do and making love to the world's most beautiful women. Together with his partner, Scrotum-Boy, he is making the world safe for democracy. Email - firstname.lastname@example.org
Visit Wil's web log, The Wil Forbis Blog, and receive complete enlightenment.