Why is a pointless question when it comes to mass shootings
WHY is one of the favourite questions of the media.
Don't get me wrong. It's a question worth asking, but it often seems to me to be the most hollow and the most tricky.
The question of what, where, when, who and how are far easier.
It's a question asked after every massacre.
Why did this person do it? What possible reason could this person have had?
I feel a deep sense of frustration every time I see this question raised in the media.
Do we think there's an answer that will satisfy us?
Do we think we'll suddenly say "now that's a reason I can understand! Thank goodness it was explained to me."
It probably annoys me more than most because in the days, week and months after the Columbine massacre, people pointed to everything from Marilyn Manson to violent video games to try to explain what Dylan Klebold and Eric Harris had done and as a teenager who also liked Marilyn Manson, all I could do was groan in disbelief.
I didn't realise this at the time, but others were also pointing fingers much closer to home, at the families of the two boys.
This might sound like a more solid place to start laying the blame, but after reading Sue Klebold's book about her son, titled A Mother's Reckoning, I don't think so.
In fact my heart breaks for both the Klebold and Harris family, who each seem to have been left as shocked and horrified by the actions of their sons as anyone else.
"How could they not have known?"
That is a phrase Sue Klebold is far too used to hearing.
This question amazes me.
Do those who ask it not remember being a teenager?
Trying their first cigarette, meeting up with the boy or girl their parents didn't approve of?
The thing that terrifies me the most is that Sue Klebold thought she was being a good parent in not invading her son's private space to search his room or read his diary, which was really just a collection of writings.
And guess what? Until I read her book, I would have agreed with her. I wouldn't have wanted my parents reading my diary when I was a teen because it was a safe space for me to vent and it wasn't meant to be read by anyone else.
Now I think Sue is right. It could mean the difference between life and death to know what is going on in the mind of teenager, even if you don't think they are particularly troubled, which Sue did not.
She knew Dylan had been in trouble and was moody at times.
How many teenagers does that sound like?
The other thing that troubled me reading Sue's book was this terrifying certainty people have that it could never happen to them.
Sue admits she would have been one of those people before the massacre.
She would have believed there was no way the parents couldn't have known, or that they were uninvolved, uncaring and disengaged with their child's life.
To me it's similar to how people react after a baby is accidently left in a car and dies.
People don't realise how fallible the human mind is, how our memory can play tricks on us. The people who accidently leave their babies in the car don't forget their babies, nor are they negligent parents.
Normally there is some kind of disruption in their day, they believe they have dropped their child off at day care and their child is safe and well looked after, only discovering later their mistake.
But the comment sections online on such stories spew vitriol, not even trying to understand how such a thing could happen to decent parents.
Similarly, we don't want to confront how deceptive people can be, even and perhaps especially teenagers, and how easily we can be duped by a convincing lie or by the impression that everything is okay.
We do not believe, or cannot accept that such a thing could happen to us, and that is why I think abuse is hurled at these parents and people like Sue Klebold.
We also need to remember that it have been almost unthinkable to imagine something like the Columbine shootings before it happened.
Dylan even wrote a story about a school shooting just before the massacre and it was not regarded as the red flag it would be viewed as today.
It was flagged with his parents, but only that it was a concerning paper.
My heart broke for Sue reading her book.
Not only has she lost a child, she lost her idea of who he was and it only through years of painstaking difficulty that she has been able to reclaim her love for her son.
It is impossible for me to protest against those who hate Dylan Klebold and Eric Harris for what they did.
There seems to have been a vast difference in motivation for the two boys.
Dylan was depressed and angry, Eric was homicidal and perhaps psychopathic.
I think that might be why Sue has been able to write this book after so long while the Harris's remain silent.
Perhaps Dylan's disorder is a little easier to understand - his great motive seems to have been suicide, while Eric seems to have been to kill, and in a certain light Dylan can be seen as a victim.
But not for one second does Sue tries to diminish what her son did that day.
But as the book so eloquently says, Eric went to the school to kill and didn't care if he died and Dylan went to school to die and didn't care if others died too.
I think as a society we need to move away from this desire to blame people, particularly people like Sue Klebold who has inflicted no pain and suffering on others.
She is perhaps as much a victim as anyone else in this tragedy.
Let's stop blaming Marilyn Manson and violent movies and try to get at the root cause of why people do these terrible things and try to prevent it.
We need to understand mental health, or brain health as Sue calls it, and we need to try not to stigmatise it.
Only then can we make an indent in preventing both suicides and murder suicides.
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