By: Frank L. Hoffman
What led up to the shooting and killing spree by Kip Kinkel at Thurston High School in Springfield, Oregon on Thursday 21 May 1998? What led him to kill his parents? These are two of the major questions that many people are asking since that fatal day that left 4 people dead and 22 others injured.
William McCall, an Associated Press writer says, "that there may be no good explanation." He concludes that despite whatever influence violence in our movies, television, and video games may have upon our youth, "some kids are just born to be bad." I personally don't believe that this is a correct answer. It does, however, have a strong Biblical or religious aspect to it. It addresses the concept of "original sin", in that we are all born in sin, but it doesn't answer the question why this particular youth did what he did, and that the vast majority of other youth don't react in this way. The other conclusion which William McCall's explanation presents is that it's God's fault, because this particular child was born to do what he did. I don't believe this for a minute, either. God may allow such violence to take place, but He does not direct it.
Shawn Johnston, a forensic psychologist from Sacramento, California, may be closer to the actual reason that Kip Kinkel did what he did: "I do believe there is a small percentage of people who are determined to be bad, who enjoy doing bad things." But, this statement doesn't go far enough, for it equates "killing" with being "bad". Nevertheless, this statement does address one of our societal problems: we don't equate killing as being worse than "bad". We accept, or tolerate violence as being a part of life. We may have to deal with it, but we still accept it.
Kip's parents recognized that he was becoming more violent and tried to get him help. His fellow students also recognized his violent nature, for they "jokingly" voted him as "Most Likely to Start World War III." And just the day before this killing spree, Kip was arrested for having a loaded .32-caliber semiautomatic handgun in his school locker, yet he was still released into his parents' custody without any observation or professional help. Obviously, his actions were not seen as "all that bad".
How could we think that such actions were not "all that bad"? I believe the answer lies in the over-all acceptance of violence in our society. If our television, and movies, and video games didn't depict so much violence as being just a part of life, Kip Kinkel's behavioral problems would have stood out all that more glaringly. We have sanitized violence so much in our society that we seem no longer able to recognize or separate a real problem from the status quo. We accept a house full of guns as being a constitutional right and quite acceptable, even a status symbol. But if these weapons weren't available to Kip Kinkel, would he have been able to act out his violence to the degree that he did? I think not!
From Bild, Germany came the following comments:
"Again the affected will stand around the coffins, beseech God and bemoan the shameful crime. Probably they will barbarically punish the 15-year-old barbarian." - This remark is a perfect observation of the way in which we have sanitized violence in our society. We see this violent act as a separate case, and not part of the whole problem of our violent nature. Kip just made the mistake of stepping over the "line" from "violence" to "too much violence", and we simply don't want to recognize our over-all problem.
"Therefore they will claim: continuous shooting in television - only a game. The unscrupulous weapons trade - a successful business. And the instructions to build bombs in the internet had nothing to do with bloody reality." - This is a perfect example of the acceptance and sanitizing of violence in our society.
"Playing with violence is instructions on how to kill."
Until we come to the reality that "shooting ourselves in the foot" is not a pleasant experience, and that it's really painful, we will most likely not eliminate violence from our society. Unfortunately, we have sanitized it and come to enjoy the "excitement" of it. Until we are collectively willing to change our lifestyle, we will not end this type of carnage. Until we wake up and realize that true love and compassion have no room for violence and killing, we will have this type of problem. I pray we will wake up!