In 1999, we had the Columbine massacre.
The two who committed the atrocity were considered "outsiders". They wore black, listened to music like KMFDM, and played violent video games like "Doom".
People blamed the music. They blamed the games. They started pointing fingers anywhere they could. Other kids became suspects, themselves, for sharing similar characteristics.
I was one of those kids.
My favorite T-shirt was black, emblazoned with the MDFMK logo (an offshot of KMDFM). I owned a black duster. I didn't play Doom much, but that's because it was pretty dated (I was really into the Unreal game at the time, though) by then.
Should I have been reported?
Aside from band class, I tended to keep to myself. I was quiet. I didn't have many friends, and had been bullied frequently. I was depressed.
Is that a sign of trouble?
I recall one particular instance where I was in the school library, utilizing the computers for casual surfing before school. I was looking at pictures and information about various guns.
See any red flags yet?
The librarian questioned me when she saw what I was looking at. I lied, and said it was for an extra-credit paper I was writing about historic weapons (I was looking at pictures of a Tommy gun).
Better call the police, right?
After Columbine, I became known as the weird kid other kids were afraid of. I was talked to buy teachers about it. Hell, some students even joked about me shooting up the school, and how they'd kick my ass if I tried.
As I write this, I'm still wearing black (well, today it's a charcoal polo and pants). I still enjoy music by KMDFM. I play video games somewhat regularly (right now? Sniper: Ghost Warrior 3, but occasionally the Star Citizen alpha, too). I still am fascinated by firearms, both modern and historic. I even have a mohawk.
The first thing I think of is McCarthyism. Reporting suspicious characters was apparently the American thing to do, even without any realistic evidence.
Of course, I'd be remiss if I didn't mention the fear of black people, Muslims, and more in more modern times.
We're just circling back to the idea that the weird kid is dangerous again.
I listened to KMFDM because I enjoyed the music, and the lyrical writing was incredibly intelligent. Of course, I also listened to blues, jazz, romantic period classical, and classic rock, but those weren't noticed.
I played video games because I also had a passion for designing them. I spent as much time modding them as I did playing them.
I was depressed because my fellow students, the "normal" ones, were more of a threat to my existence than I was to them.
I read about guns because the mechanics were interesting to me, and I grew up in a small town where owning a gun was a right of passage for just about every young boy.
The mohawk? Well, it's actually a really efficient hairstyle for a cyclist who wants to wear a helmet without dealing with helmet hair.
What good would reporting have done?
If the Florida school shooter is any example, not much.
There is a much larger issue at play. "Reporting suspicious characters" isn't going to solve the problems with school shootings.
Even when the kid checks all the boxes, like I did, it doesn't mean they are all going to go on a murderous rampage.
I never did, and I never had any desire to. Even when I was stabbed in the back with a pencil. Even when I was "pantsed" in the middle of gym class.
The issue wasn't the music. The clothes. the video games. Any of that.
The problems we face in society are much more involved than playing pin the tail on the weirdos. You can't typecast everybody, whether they are black, or just wear black.
I'm not going to pretend that anything will change with this editorial. I just wanted to share my story, as the one they were talking about when people asked if they should report that weird kid in school.
Disclaimer: I'm socially, as well as fiscally, liberal. I believe in strong gun control. I believe in universal healthcare - including mental healthcare. I believe everybody is equal, am a feminist in perpetual training, and consider sexuality a spectrum, rather than being binary.