Trigger Warnings: School shootings, assault, and why the media can go f*ck itself. And some cussin’.
Real talk for a minute. I would so appreciate it if the media wouldn’t run headlines that are all about how a young killer went on his killing spree because one of his victims previously “refused his advances.” Who cares. That girl he shot in Texas didn’t owe him shit. She is not responsible for her death or his other classmates’ deaths. No one owes anyone their heart or body, as if they’re for sale and he by virtue of his extreme (and murderous) passion had racked up enough unrequited-love credit to buy her, and now our media and our culture want to respond as if her refusal to sell at the market value makes her culpable for his decision to deal with his emotions by gunning other kids down. People aren’t commodities. Kids and teenagers aren’t commodities. When someone kidnaps, rapes, or murders another human being, it’s not because that other person had a dress too short or “wasn’t nice” or refused to go out on a date. It’s because the abductor/rapist/killer decided they owned that other person and could do with them as they pleased. They decided to hurt or destroy another person. They decided another person belonged to them, that they had bought or earned or were entitled to that person as their possession. And that is some fucked up shit.
And when you spin a story about how some girl “rejected his advances” and triggered his killing spree, that is some fucked up shit. Because then you are authorizing his presumed ownership of her, and you are validating the aggrieved attitude of every other mean-minded youth or incel who feels entitled to possess another human being regardless of their consent. And when that next jackal guns someone down or hits them with a car or holds them imprisoned in a basement or vents their embittered entitlement in bullets on a school, you know, that won’t be your fault. It will be theirs. But your rush to endorse and validate and excuse them is so fucked up I don’t know where to start.
Loudly for those in the back: My oldest is eight. She’ll be a pre teen in a few years. She doesn’t owe anyone shit. She will never owe anyone a date or a smile. It doesn’t matter what she wears. It doesn’t matter how much someone may want her. You all teach your kids that she’s a human being.
You teach your kids that a person they find attractive does not belong to them, and they are not entitled to another’s affection or intimacy. You teach your kids that other people are human beings, and that intimacy is a gift to be freely given. Teach them to own their own emotions and choices. If you are religious, then dammit, teach your kids that other human beings are made in the likeness of God with all of the dignity and agency that implies.
Teach your kids that when you feel rejected, then you write atrocious love poems and you cry your heart out and you f*cking deal with it until the disappointment or the hurt passes. Then you go on. And you do that because your feelings are your own and you honor the other person because if their affection isn’t a free gift from another free being then it isn’t something you want, and because if you value another person it does not mean you value them as a thing to possess, it means you want to see them alive and free and full of life and you happen to want to be two free people who live life abundantly together. In the name of God, our kids – and our grownups – need to remember what it means to be human beings and to act toward each other as toward other free and whole beings. We grownups aren’t failing our responsibilities to the young by leaving incels without dates and sex on demand. We are failing our young by telling them lies and by neglecting to teach them what it means to be human. Do that and maybe we get a society with fewer school shootings, rapes, and assaults.
But I don’t want to hear any more of this claptrap about how rejected in love this poor mass murderer felt, because the only way that matters a dime is if you buy into the same lie that burned in that kid’s heart when he shot his classmates: the lie that you own or can own or should own other people. The lie that makes you feel stolen from, the lie that makes you pick up a firearm to steal it back. That lie runs deep in our culture and that lie is killing us.
Stant Litore is a novelist. He writes about gladiators on tyrannosaurback, Old Testament prophets battling the hungry dead, geneticists growing biological starships, time-traveling hijabi bisexual defenders of humanity from the future. Explore his fiction here. And here is one of his toolkits for writers, and here’s another book where he nerds out about ancient languages and biblical (mis)translation. Enjoy!