Tuesday, November 23, 2010

The real Columbine connection to the Aussie twins’ suicide pact

 I'm happy to be a guest poster today on Slate's excellent XX Factor blog, with Columbine's Lost Lesson

(If you haven't read XX Factor, you're missing out. It's subtitled What women really think, and describes itself as "a conversation among Slate’s women writers and friends about politics, culture, and anything else that strikes our fancy.
It's edited by Slate's Emily Bazelon, one of the smartest people writing today. Keep track of her, and look for her at award time soon for some stories she did this year.)

How cool to be a male guest. I hope I acquit my gender well. Here's a few snippets from my piece:
This week, the U.S. caught up with a story which has been big news in Australia for a week. From the New York Times site: "Twin sisters from Australia, who complained of bullying as teenagers, might have chosen to shoot themselves at a gun range outside Denver last week because of its proximity to Columbine High School, site of the 1999 massacre that became a global news event."

Last Monday, Kristin Hermeler committed suicide while her twin, Candice, shot herself but survived, at the Family Shooting Center at Cherry Creek State Park, less than 20 miles from Columbine. . . .

What's missing from much of the coverage is the meaningful Columbine connection to this suicide: depression. This remains the major unlearned lesson from Columbine. Depression drove one of the Columbine killers, Dylan Klebold. Yet it lurks so deeply in the recesses of our conception of the tragedy that it fails to register in an obvious case like this. . .

Last year, Dylan’s mother, Sue Klebold, broke a decade of silence with a powerful essay in O Magazine describing the depths of Dylan’s depression. She was candid about her failure and her husband's to grasp the significance or danger. Of course they didn't. Few parents do. Because we don’t talk about it. Teachers and administrators are afraid to address it, and journalists shy away from our obligation as well.
The rest of my essay is over at XX Factor. 

Thanks to Mark Oppenheimer for pointing out another Columbine misunderstanding in the Hermeler story. I'm glad it wasn't just me thinking that.

And you can also listen or read a transcript to my appearance Saturday on Sydney's morning radio show AM, discussing the same case. A bit from me there:

"Fifteen people died a Columbine, meanwhile tens of thousands of kids are dying every year at their own hands by suicide, that is a much bigger story."

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