BY CHAD FELTON
“Did you hear about what happened?” I was asked, roughly a month ago.
“No,” I answered, impersonal dread building inside me. Hesitant to inquire, I proceeded. “Now what?” Quickly, I asked myself if any politician on any level was scheduled to speak anywhere in the Cleveland region, did somebody do something stupid, reprehensible, like in Arizona this January last? I came up with nothing.
“Chardon. A shooting. At the high school.”
“Goddamn, are you kidding me?” I asked, rhetorically. Somehow I knew before the words even entered my head. That isn’t clairvoyance, but when an exchange begins with the words “Did you hear…” and those words are burdened in the person’s voice, the spider-sense starts tingling. While fearing the worst, you know it’s nothing good, and knowing it’s nothing good immediately puts violence as the primary deduction in your consciousness.
Another disturbing cliché too many times told: “Troubled teen terrorizes…” Allegedly, this kid (he won’t be named here), taking orders from the chaos in his head, shot up the Chardon High School cafeteria with a .22 caliber handgun in the early hours of what should have been a quotidian morning. Pandemonium ensued. As of this writing, three innocent students are dead, two injured, with the alleged gunman in custody whose initial court date saw him admitting to the shooting, picking his targets randomly. Authorities have formally charged him with delinquency by way of three counts of aggravated murder, two counts of attempted aggravated murder and felonious assault.
National coverage of this senseless violence still stirs. As do the prognoses and inevitable prognostications that sicken me. Naturally, when ill shit like this goes down, blame jumps to the forefront, misguided, quick-fix, convenient blame. Let’s see, what has your assigned correspondent heard thus far? Oh, it’s video games, you understand, that damn Call of Duty: Black Ops. That’s what precipitated this violence. No, it’s Foster the People and their prevalent crossover tune “Pumped Up Kicks.” Or other genres of music, like metal and gangsta rap. Or bullying via social media and otherwise. Wait, it might be R rated movies or the throwaway competitive violence of pro wrestling and reality television. Or Jerry Springer. Or the inner city. (Since when is a suburb 35 miles west of Cleveland the “inner city”?)
Or, wait for it, Obama. And his “entitlements” and his failed watch over this nation, you know, and the prevalent moral turpitude of the Democratic party. What shit. Three kids are dead, two wounded, and these pundits and know-it-alls feel they have the right to essentially reach blindly into a hat and pull out a readily available excuse primed to be tagged on whatever platform from which they spew.
You’ve got the “How?” and the “Who?” but the “Why?” is a real question, no argument. But the window dressing, the parlor game guessing makes measured misdirection stand at the forefront when it shouldn’t be.
Can’t a crestfallen community mourn, remember and cherish their lost without some blowhard who makes six figures telling them why it happened? I know media “personalities” are supposed to feign omniscience, but their batty bullshit is just plain asinine.
Eternally frustrating is the something you can’t figure out, and maybe there isn’t a definitive answer, which lends the haunting feeling an additional dimension. He was from a broken home—the nature vs. nurture conundrum—had been branded “at-risk,” had been in a fair amount of trouble with the law before and posted ominous and cryptic messages on his Facebook page. This kid even went so far as to tweet an announcement that he was going to bring a gun to school.
We’ve gone through all this before (Ft. Hood, Casas Adobes, where U.S. Representative Gabrielle Giffords and 18 other people were shot, Columbine, etc.), and sadly, it won’t be the last tragedy to befall a town. Even now, copycat degenerates are committing heinous acts, issuing loaded threats and promising impending bedlam.
“What ever happened to crazy?” Chris Rock once honestly asked his audience during a stand-up act. Oh, we get it, that term’s not “clinical,” it dismisses motivation, psychology, cognitive comprehension and eventually, in effect, catharsis. It’s a blanketed discharge to peg someone crazy; perhaps with years of study and professional provocation, we can extract key knowledge for our gain to preclude this from happening in other towns and to other families. Hmm…progression/science is one thing, but loco does exist. “It’s more comfortable for you to label me insane,” Kevin Spacey’s John Doe tells Brad Pitt’s Detective David Mills in “Seven.” “It’s VERY comfortable,” Mills replies.
Life continues in Chardon, school’s been back in session, the repairing of a community underway. The procession of students, unified in spirit and strength back to school was an inspiring image, as was the solidarity opponents showed in basketball games, displaying Chardon High’s colors, even Hilltopper logos set as profile pictures on numerous Facebook pages, Chardon student or not. And to Mr. Frank Hall, assistant football coach, I must disagree with your modest assertion that you are not a hero. You’re the closest thing to it. You claim to be just a coach and a study hall teacher, but your chasing of the alleged shooter may well have saved more people. Many continue to praise and thank you, sir.
As this ordeal carries out, it will also see tentative hearings, determining if the alleged shooter will be tried as an adult. And you know what’s next. If convicted, he could receive life without the possibility of parole. The death penalty is not applicable to him due to a 2005 U.S. Supreme Court ruling that executing juveniles is unconstitutional. Reread the last four words of the previous sentence and try to make sense of it. Apparently, the alleged shooter didn’t agree.
Without delving into political capital punishment debate, allow this solemn, justice-seeking and completely sympathy-free recommendation: throw his ass off the Valley View Bridge. Tonight. Evil’s punished. Period. No apology, no compromise.
This isn’t a news story or an updated report. Forget formality and political correctness. Go grab The Plain Dealer if you’re looking for all that. Get mad, embrace the pain that scarred the Chardon community and begin the healing. Chardon will never forget the horror of that day, but that doesn’t mean they should be defined by it.
(Thoughts, love and prayers always to Daniel Parmertor, Russell King, Jr., Demetrius Hewlin [all three whose lives were taken], Joy Rickers, Nickolas Walczak and Nate Mueller, as well as your families and the entire town of Chardon. May you find peace again soon.)
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POSTED 04/01/2011 22:10