Rock and roll all night

By the

March 22, 2001

Happiness abounds on campus.

The men’s basketball team is going to the Sweet 16.

Nat Burton is God.

Uh-oh. I just took God out of our University. Maybe, as many Republicans from my part of the country would have you believe, someone will show up to class next week with a gun and kill me and a half dozen other kids.

OK, that wasn’t the smoothest transition of all time, but you get the point: There are some straight-up ridiculous explanations for school shootings.

The latest shooting happened outside of San Diego while most of you were burning your faces?hello, sunscreen?on warm beaches or pretty ski mountains. (I’m bitter because I’ve made it to one not very tropical beach and zero ski slopes since I got to school.)

As far as I can tell, that’s just it?bitterness. “Kids these days” are pissed off. I know because I just finished being one four or five years ago.

Obviously, my brain doesn’t compare with these kids that actually go get a gun and take down their classmates. I’ve never even been in a fight. I mean my brother and I got in fights, but I think, combined, we threw about four real punches at each other?my brother was the only one to land one. Still, I’ve got a few scary stories. Here’s the best one:

In eighth grade, I really wished this ninth grader was dead. I really did. He was large; I was small (probably less than 5 feet at that point). He came out of the locker room one day, grabbed me by the arms, yelled as if he had steroid rage and threw me against a wall. It’s been eight years and I still remember that day. He eventually became class president or something like that. A few other kids looked on in amazement that day in the locker room, but no one said anything. The physical pain was minimal; I didn’t get any bruises. I was just embarrassed that I couldn’t have fought back even if I had wanted to: He was a foot taller than I was.

It happened on a Monday. The next day we had chapel. (Yes, I went to an all-boys, slightly religious school.) I didn’t spend the 15 minutes soothing my soul. For five minutes, I thought about whether or not I could get even. The answer was no. For the remaining 10 minutes, I thought about the fact that, even at my private, semi-religious school with lots of discipline, the best thing to do was just to avoid him because I had no idea what else to do.

For me it would have taken a lot more than $50 to buy a $50 handgun. It also helped that I was scared of an after-school detention, let alone what would have actually happened to me if I had threatened this kid with a gun.

Needless to say, I didn’t tell anyone about this. I didn’t want to spend a week talking to the school chaplain about my feelings of rage. And more importantly, I didn’t want to get someone else in trouble.

God didn’t save me (or him). Counselors, religion and chaplains didn’t save anyone. My moral conscience certainly didn’t save him; I was absolutely out of touch for that one day. He was saved by the fact that a gun wasn’t really a viable solution even when I was at my lowest point; so I guess you could say my parents saved him.

I’m sure plenty of people would think it’s relevant that I own some hardcore metal CDs, such as Minor Threat. Maybe that nasty music made me want to kill that kid. Actually it’s more the other way around.

Before eighth grade, I had about five CDs. Guns ‘N Roses was definitely the only one with a parental advisory sticker, but that was more for the sexuality than the violence. I started listening to that stuff after I entered my angry phase. For me it took the edge off, and I couldn’t think of wanting to kill anyone after I had my angry music.

Loud, angry music gives off a powerful vibe that helps when you feel threatened by other abusive kids. If I were a kid today, I’m sure I’d dig Eminem, precisely because I know that what he “advocates” is absolutely unthinkable (just like when I sang ring around the rosies as a little kid I was advocating the spread of the plague).

Trust me, we all grow out of it. I mean it’s only been eight years, and by now I like my dad’s collection of music almost as much as I like my own. (Eventually, kids learn that the beauty of music is in the instrumentation, not the lyrics, whether angry or otherwise.) But I keep my angry music around for the one day a year when the world is keeping me down unfairly.

Restriction is exactly what teen-age kids hate the most. Personally, I’m still not big on restriction, but I don’t exactly think about killing the source of the restriction anymore.

Obviously kids can’t be unrestricted, but it’s time to reassess what needs to be restricted the most. A violent movie isn’t going to push a kid over the edge. Telling him he’s too immature to see one just might.

Violence is more about reaction than imitation. Restriction prompts a reaction. If adults want to prompt violent reactions by restricting kids, I suggest restricting guns, not movies and music. Then at least their violent reaction will be as powerless as my own.

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