A few weeks ago a documentary premiered on Movistar +, Raising a mass murderer, about what it is like to be the father of one of those teenagers who commit massacres in schools in the United States. It is a European co-production and involves two men, whose children have been in jail for countless years, and a mother, Sue, who is the most interesting. His son was Dylan Klebold, who at 17 and together with his friend Eric, 18, perpetrated the 1999 Columbine High School massacre in Denver, the largest carnage of its kind: they murdered 13 people and wounded 24 , some of extreme gravity. After that orgy of fury and blood, both boys shot each other’s heads. When, in the first confusing moments, Sue heard news of the horror and learned that Dylan was the cause, she wished her son were among the dead. I mean that the contained words of that woman are the testimony of someone who has descended into the blackest heart of hell and is still struggling to return.
I believe that religions and philosophies have been invented in order to give a meaning to Evil so that it does not destroy us. Because Evil destroys, and not only directly, with its evils, but with the grief of its poisonous presence. And now imagine that Evil is personified in your child. “I’ve been trying to understand all these years,” says Sue. The documentary shows the way of the cross of the parents of these official monsters: how they are rejected by their neighbors, how society blames them for what their son does; and how they blame themselves, of course. Of the three parents interviewed, only one was a fanatic about guns and had taught his son to shoot (now he hates them and regrets having them at home). Dylan’s family was against its use and pacifist. How does an adolescent like this come to be created and raised, with all that desperation and violence? There is no single answer to this, but rather a coincidence of nonsense, the cumulative and explosive energy of the perfect storm.
Social psychologist Judith Harris, in her interesting book No two are the same, argues very convincingly that what most influences a child’s behavior and education are not their parents, but their friends. Your peers. Which popular wisdom already knows: it is the danger of “bad company.” Then there is the biological ingredient; I have cited the colossal essay a thousand times Incognito by neuroscientist David Eagleman, who at the end leaves open a disturbing hypothesis: is Evil a fault in the brain’s wiring, a physical problem for which the wicked would not be responsible? It is a possibility that is distressing because of the denial of free will that it supposes. And then there is the environmental factor, certainly powerful: the four murderers mentioned in the film had apparently been victims of bullying. If to all that you add a society armed to the teeth in which it seems normal to walk with a gun, the perfect storm is served. According to the documentary, dated 2021, since 1970 there have been 1,677 shootings in US schools, with 598 dead and 1,626 injured, and most of the attackers were under 18 years old and lived with their parents. To that I suppose we must add the school massacres this year: 43 shootings and 12 deaths as of September 1. Atrocious.
Sue says that sometimes she manages to forget about the killing and be happy for 20 minutes, but then she feels guilty. Twenty-two years later, she is still looking into the abyss. But it has earrings. What has impressed me the most about Sue are those earrings. She is a slim woman in her 70s, with very short white hair and beautiful earrings that change in the different shots: little birds, earrings, glass sheets. This delicate and tenacious jewelery indicates her determination to carry on, to celebrate beauty despite everything. The heroism of getting up every day, looking in the mirror, adorning yourself. The will to keep thinking in order to understand. These horrors, he says, are born from the dehumanization of the other; of the lack of dialogue and contact. How those words resonate in a society like ours, increasingly traversed by anger. Hate begets hate and it smells of blood.
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