An Open Letter to America’s Next School Shooter
You’ve probably got the guns already.
You’ve probably filled notebooks with logistical plans; spent hours out in the forest or the desert practicing your aim. You’ve probably got a kill list, and a (very short) list of people you’d like to spare. You’ve probably gone over the notes of previous shooters with a fine-toothed comb, noting where they made mistakes and how you can avoid those same blunders. You’ve probably spent the last few nights blasting music through your headphones, amping yourself up for Zero Hour.
You’re probably so excited you can barely hold it in. Everything’s clicking into place, and nobody suspects a thing.
Guess what. I’m not going to try to talk you out of it.
Instead, I’m going to share some additional possibilities you might not have considered.
All I ask is that you share ten minutes of your time with me, and hear me out.
Remember your reasons
A lot of people who read this aren’t going to like most of the things I’m about to tell you. They’re going to want me to plead with you to consider the value of human life, or to recognize the futility of your project, or to seek professional help, or to “just talk to girls” (ha!) and connect with a supportive social group.
All ridiculous, I know. Just shows what mind-bogglingly poor judges of character these optimists are. You’ve already sorted human lives into bins marked “valuable” and “non-valuable.” You’ve either tried therapy and been disgusted by it, or you know full well it’d be counterproductive. You’ve already tried “just talking to girls” more times than you can count; it feels like walking through a minefield. And most social groups are a bunch of smiling fakers anyway.
And yes of course you recognize the self-destructive nature of your project. That’s part of the routine. You want to go down guns blazing on a Wagnerian pyre, incinerating anything and everyone you can take down with you.
So forget any do-gooders who might be reading this. They have no business here anyway. I’m going to talk like it’s only the two of us sitting here, and you’ve just asked me for some final tips.
OK. Let me start by asking you to remember your reasons for doing this in the first place. This will be helpful for brainstorming.
I’ll throw out a few guesses as to those reasons — just stabs in the dark, really (no pun intended). Here’s one: The alpha apes get all the popularity; all the love. On the other hand, the cultured guys, who’d probably treat the girls infinitely better, get mocked and ignored. And fuck those girls, too. They deserve everything they get. The scales need to be rebalanced.
Yeah? No? Maybe a little?
How about this: The weak get bullied; the shy get excluded and ignored. Now it’s time for the Kens and Barbies of the world to look up and take notice. Getting warmer?
Or, ooh! How about this: The human-constructed world is an intolerably boring, oppressive, dead-end failed experiment — and at the end of the day, honestly, it’d just be really funny to watch them all screaming in terror and pleading for forgiveness; for their lives; while the whole ridiculous edifice burns and collapses around them. Serves them right for being so unbearably dull.
Or maybe nothing much made sense in your life until you read the manifestos of people like Eric Harris and Seung-Hui Cho, and saw there a certain clarity of purpose; a dedication to a transgressive art form, that resonated with you so deeply that you couldn’t help but want to follow in their footsteps.
I’m guessing you’ve spent hours — probably weeks in total — sitting in your room, chewing over some or all of the above. Sometimes you’ve wanted to end the whole world; other times you’ve thought about ending yourself. Sometimes both, in either order. You’ve imagined yourself walking through the steps laid out by your inspirations, but adding your own innovations; correcting their mistakes; pushing the art forward even as you pay homage to the greats. You’ve imagined how people will remember you; how men and women will snarl your name and weep and curse you and shake their fists at the sky, and know the error of their ways.
A little melodramatic, maybe, but that’s the general idea, isn’t it? Plus, what’s wrong with a little melodrama now and then?
You know what, though? There’s more than one way accomplish your goal.
Hear me out. This won’t take long.
Making an impact
What do people say, today, about the most infamous “issue” killers? Harris and Klebold? Seung-Hui Cho? Adam Lanza? To the vast majority of humankind, they’re footnotes. Some people might remember vague details about their work — but nobody influential rereads their manifestos and seriously reconsiders the issues they killed and died for. Nobody ever will.
How can I possibly know that? Because nobody today remembers and rereads the manifestos of “issue” killers from earlier periods. Felice Orsini? Andrew Kehoe? Charles Whitman? Who the hell are those guys? Yeah, my point exactly.
So for whatever it’s worth, just go into it knowing that.
One possible response to this fact is to change tactics and work to become a leader of men; somebody like Genghis Khan or Alexander the Great; someone who infiltrates the system and disrupts it irreparably from the inside. That’s certainly a possible route, but I’m guessing it doesn’t hold much interest for you. I don’t blame you.
But hey, maybe you’re not an “issue” killer at all. Maybe you just want to try your hand at the trade. Maybe you’re bored of the world, or infuriated by it, and you’re ready to show them you mean business.
Except it’s not really The World that makes you feel this way. It’s just one specific society, tucked away in one specific area of one particular continent. You’re thinking small, when you could be thinking so much bigger.
The big guns
Want to really throw down the gauntlet on life — and get in some real-world practice while you’re at it? Want to run out of burning buildings, guns ablaze, quite possibly toward your own death?
There are places all over the world where you’ll have no trouble at all finding that. This kid threw away a dream internship, flew to Libya during the civil war, and fought freelance on the front lines, just because he felt like it. He loved it so much he went back again the next year. These maniacs are in Iraq right now, taking orders from nobody, slaying every ISIS member they can find.
These guys might not come back to a hero’s welcome — but they’re coming back as free men. They’ll get to live out their lives somewhere other than in a six-by-eight cell; somewhere they can craft even better plans as they gain experience. Think bigger, is what I’m saying.
Don’t feel like front-lining it in somebody else’s war? Can’t say I blame you. What about riding shotgun in a smuggling truck in Kenya? No? Drive a motorcycle across the ‘Stans. Stroll around in the slums of Johannesburg and just see what unfolds. Head down to Mexico and go on a weeklong coke-and-hookers bender. You might be surprised what you discover about yourself when you really push your limits.
If you’re thinking, “I’m just not that kind of person,” all I can say is, “Why the hell not?” Nobody right now thinks you’re the kind of person who can shoot up a school, but you’re about to prove them wrong, aren’t you? Imagine the looks on everyone’s faces when you do! Walk to your nearest post office, sign for a passport, buy a plane ticket and you’re off.
The world is so much larger than whatever dump you’re living in. And yeah, wherever you go, you have to bring yourself with you. It’s true. At the same time, those kinds of journeys have a way of bringing out parts of you that you never knew existed. Not in a Valley-girl, “Ohmygawd, it was such a transformative experience” kind of way. Good God, no; what I mean is that those kinds of journeys — if you pick your adventures right — have a way of making you more awe-inspiring than you ever dreamed possible.
Choose your journeys well, and you stand a very good chance of coming back with a look in your eyes that makes it very hard for people to meet your gaze. Yes, even the popular kids. Especially the popular kids. People will listen to your stories. They will want to hear what you have to say. You will get interviewed. Interviewers will take your ideas seriously. You cannot imagine how incredibly, unbelievably laid you will get.
Use your parents’ credit card if you have to. I’m sure they’d much rather you steal a few thousand bucks than shoot up a school.
To be clear:
In case we’ve had a miscommunication here, let me be perfectly clear: I’m still not trying to talk you out of your plan.
All I’m asking is that you take a few minutes, make yourself a cup of coffee (or smoke a cigarette or whatever) and consider what you’d really have to lose by packing in a few final adventures before you go out with a bang. Level up a little before you take on the boss fight.
Nobody knows what you’re planning anyway. The date is completely up to you. Why not head off on your own for one last tour — a few weeks in the Middle East, a touch of smuggling in Africa, coke and hookers in Mexico; whatever you want; it’s your party — then come back and finish the whole thing off when you’re done.
Besides, don’t you owe it to yourself to be absolutely sure you’re doing the right thing?
That’s all I’m saying. Just take a few minutes and think it over. In the end, it really is up to you.