History seems to be an ever accelerating wheel. There has been a heated debate over the last few years as to whether Confederate monuments should be torn down because of what they represent. More recently, a question is being posed to the public in Littleton, Colorado, as to whether Columbine High School should be torn down because of the tragedy with which it's forever associated. Of course, the question the American public is really struggling with in both cases is whether such actions are an attempt to rewrite history.
Now, for clarity, a majority of Confederate memorials were built between the 1890s and the 1950s, according to the History Channel. The Civil War ended in 1865, so there's about a 25 year gap between the war's end and the first major memorials. The shootings at Columbine were carried out in April of 1999 — that's just 20 years ago.
Not to date myself, but 20 years ago I was a young student on the lowest rung of a newly expanded middle school. I was just old enough to understand what the news was telling us, but not quite old enough to see the big picture.
Sandy Hook Elementary.
Marjorie Stoneman Douglas High School.
Our comprehension of the trend expanded as the years went by, but so did the big picture and the list of victims. Admittedly, it's not a pattern that started with Columbine, but somehow the Colorado school holds a place of infamous prominence in the history gun violence — perhaps because we were taken so off guard by the level of hate displayed by the perpetrators.
To quote words penned by Marvel Comics writer J. Michael Straczynski, "The sane world will always be vulnerable to madmen, because we cannot go where they go to conceive of such things."
The concern in Colorado is that the site on which the madmen of Columbine High School did such terrible things serves as inspiration for future madmen — a point which some latter shootings have given clout. And the issue of school shootings certainly hasn't come to a standstill. Yet, there is also the legacy of the victims and the survivors to consider. It's a difficult thing to both honor the victims and explain the inherent evil of the act which took them. It's difficult to both recognize the death of an individual who sided with the Confederacy without condoning his cause. It's difficult to fully portray the tragedy of 6 million murdered Jews without accurately explaining a socio-political movement which mechanized genocide.
Yet, the Holocaust Museums walk that line with perfection.
It's quite possible, in my opinion, that the best way to honor those lost to such tragedy as the Columbine shooting is to take a lesson from Holocaust memorials and exhibits – accurately share how and why the tragedy came to be so that we may avoid its happening ever again. I realize there is a memorial to the victims on teh ground, but I think we can take it a few steps farther. We need to hear the stories of those who died as well as those who survived. We need to understand what we as a society can do to keep the next would-be gunman from going down a similar path. In my opinion, and I know we're far removed from Littleton, Colorado, that school could serve as an excellent space to make some real change in the world.
I think it would be a waste of potential to destroy it for fear of copy cat killers, rather than actively educating the public in an effort to stem their proliferation.