Monday, December 10, 2007

I read with prurient interest the article in the Times about the kid who shot up the mall in Omaha – the article titled and positioned in such a manner so as not to appear to be catering to prurient interests. His suicide notes were perplexing and ultimately infuriating. They’re not reprinted in their entirety in the Times – the more profane passages I had to find elsewhere – but the first thing that struck me was their melodramatic quality. I love you momma, I love you dad. I love my friends, you’re all the best friends ever. I’m so sorry. Sorry for being a burden. Remember the good times. He seems to want to end it all on a sort of conciliatory, salutary note, and he expresses this in the bland, clichéd terms one might employ in a greeting card, or a yearbook message to the kid in class you only ever pretended to like. Maybe he doesn’t have the literary faculties to write something more interesting or profound, but you might at least expect it to be honest. Man, you’re about to kill X number of people in a shopping mall. A highly radical act, not defensible by any stretch but explainable, at least in some sense, by the actor himself. Even if the explanation were that there is no explanation – that’d be a start. He could have said anything. He could have cited the inherent worthlessness of human beings. He could have said he hated their mall-going, shit-buying ways. He could have said he was doing this for no reason, or that he thought it might be fun, or that he wanted to be famous (he betrays this, actually, in one sentence to his friends). But mostly it’s all self-pitying, aw-I-love-you-all, I-just-have-to-do-this-now claptrap. The words are weak and the thinking is weak – which is weird because the act itself, of course, is strong. All we get by way of explanation for what’s to come is this: “I just want to take a few pieces of shit with me.” So the murderous rampage is an afterthought to the suicide, and the suicide note is a request for forgiveness before the fact. It’s all ass-backwards. Man, if you do love anyone, if you’re telling them you’re sorry, if you expect any kind of credit for your words of atonement – then don’t do it. It’s not complicated – just crumple up the note and head back to group therapy. And failing that – if you’re going to go be a mall killer no matter what I say – at least write something interesting in your final message to the world of the living. Is it because you hate us that much that you didn’t? Or is it because you hate yourself?