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Y2K and Columbine arise from the same soil



Because there is so much public attention on the massacres at Columbine High School, I am posting these three excellent articles to provide a glimpse of how we might more creatively deal with the problems that face us.

Although Columbine High School is not Y2K, the same society that produced one produced the other. A discerning eye will recognize them as the work of the same artist, the same creator, the same culture. Every one of our society's problems bears the trademark of the enterprise that crafted it: our persistent failure to look beyond the obvious, and to provide ourselves with the time and opportunity to collectively reflect on what we find there, beyond the obvious. Short-term thinking -- combined with our remarkable neglect of genuine dialogue about the welfare of our communities and the quality of our lives -- has produced, is producing, and will continue to produce tragedies like Y2K, Columbine, the Balkan War and so much more.

We are moving toward the heart of the matter. Soon, perhaps, we will have had enough of this useless suffering.

Tom Atlee


Reflections on Attending the Memorial Service for Columbine High Schools Students in Littleton, Colorado

by David La Chapelle <>
Mon, 26 Apr 1999

I would like to tell you about a columbine. And then I would like to
tell you about Columbine.
That the two are linked is but one of the strange paradoxes which
define the worst school shooting in American history.
I had taken a group of people high into the mountains of southern
Colorado for a retreat. One morning we hiked up from our base camp which
was nestled at tree line, (roughly 10,000 feet for those who have not
visited these mountains), to greet the sun from a high mountain lake.
The purity of Colorado above timberline is one of the great comforts of
my life. There is a vibrancy of presence which sings through the stones
and echoes from the border of mountain and sky. This particular morning
I waited as the shadows slowly melted in a long line before me; proof
that our world is spinning its way through each day. As the sun drew
near a sudden irregularity in the ridge above dropped a spear of light
in front me. That spear pierced a columbine. The blue and white chalice
of gentle petalled elegance was ignited.
Columbines are rare at the altitude we were sitting. The vessel of
light which was before me was compelling in its perfection. I was, for a
moment, sitting in the presence of a flower which transcended its
Littleton is a town with a good view of the front range. The peaks are
close enough to still feel, even in the middle modern urban sprawl. This
simple truth brings me comfort as I drive down Bowles avenue towards a
memorial for the slain students of Columbine High School. It is apparent
as I crest a hill and begin to see the crowds forming ahead of me that
this event is far larger than anyone expected. I park my car and walk
towards the theater parking lot in which the memorial will be held. From
all directions there is a streaming river of humanity walking with a
measured purpose that is unfamiliar to large groups in our culture. The
only other time I have witnessed similar crowds are at rock concerts and
football games. This crowd is fundamentally different. This is the first
flower of hope in the midst of day of deep grief.
There are also growths of a different ilk. On the way into the event I,
and many others, where forced to run a gauntlet of hate. A preacher and
his flock were stationed by the sidewalk holding signs saying, "God
hates Fags" The preacher, with his cowboy hat and stern, burning, face
looked vindicated by the unspeakable horror which had just occurred. His
triumph was barely moderated by any sense of propriety. The violence of
his hatred spills upon the crowd, stirring disgust in most who walked
past his appointed pulpit.
I wonder if there was any comprehension in his heart that the blood
spilled on Columbine and his own actions were possibly linked. Hearts,
when hardened, are incapable of seeing how the actions of the universe
are interwoven. The extremity of this position can kill and laugh while
doing so.
As I get closer to the event silver and blue ribbons appear everywhere.
Silver and Blue balloons are held in numerous hands. And more people are
holding flowers than are not. I take up a position next to a barbwire
fence overlooking the parking lot in front of the theater. Between me
and the row of barricades which have been erected for the event there is
a corridor through which thousands will walk.
As I wait for the ceremonies to begin humanity flows past me. Six high
school girls, arms linked and each with roses, walk before me. They are
bonded beyond linked arms. There is a pool of melted heart which flows
tangibly through their friendship. Tears form in my eyes as I witness
this blossom of humanity.
Uncommon evil has as its counterpoint the deepest wells of compassion.
This truth was to be played out before me the entire day. We are called
to the other pole of possibility when destruction is before us and we do
not understand.
As the thousands of people walk past me I see that they are moving in
subtle waves and wavelets. The bonding of families and friends organizes
the flow into coherent pulses which havea beauty of their own. A
gathering of humanity when led by the heart can be as beautiful as any
tender river making its way to the sea.
The grass before me slowly becomes mud as the feet of the passing
people turn the soil over. The measure of sadness and the mud are not
significantly different than the images of Kosovo refugees. For a moment
I am looking into the faces of refugees within our own country, driven
from the comfort of their homes and security by an act which betrays the
undercurrent of violence which lives within our culture. We are all made
refugees by the presence of violence in whatever school we choose to
enter. Simply because many of us have graduated does not mean that we
are not still at school, nor does it mean that we immune from the
premeditated and calculated terror which has so recently descended upon
Columbine High School.
The wavering voice of a Columbine High School student begins the
memorial. He and his brother, survivors of the incident, have written a
song which they are about to perform. As the first tentative chords of
his brother,s guitar roll out from the remarkably clear loudspeakers he
finds his voice. His tenderness is reflected in the welling tears within
and around me. Somehow, in the middle of the violence, he has still
found a way to express innocence. There is a yearning in his voice which
hopefully will carry deeply into the people of our times. Considering
that millions of are present with him as he sings he has become a voice
of anguished hope for a planet awash in difficulties. A distant roll of
thunder answers the poignant power of his gesture.
As he sings thousands of silver and blue balloons are released. As they
rise they bob and weave as if held by eddies of unseen currents. The
balloons begin to radiate out from the center of our grief. As the song
ends the balloons have risen far beyond our mud stained feet and are
all, each one, dancing in some elegant perfection of dispersal. It is a
gentle unfolding harmonic of the self organizing waves of human care
which I had seen walking before me.
The speakers, politicians and others gathered upon the all too distant
stage begin to try and encapsulate the moment in their words. They fail,
except possibly for a couple of students survivors who spoke later in
the program. What is unfolding before us is simply too deep for words.
As the speeches are given there is an odd rumble to the south. I, and
many around me, turn to see what it could be. There is no clear answer,
only the unsettling feeling that the rolling thunder we are hearing is
not the same clear and distinct answer which nature had bestowed upon
the purity of the opening song.
The words continue upon the stage. It is the alchemy of care in the
hearts around me which are far more powerful. I have never stood in a
crowd of strangers and felt such kinship. If ever there was hope for a
planet besieged by difficulties it was there before me. A revealing
columbine, a tender vessel of emergent human care, which was being
illuminated by a greater light.
One of the lights of this event is not to be found high above us. It is
an unsettling light which shines deeply into the subterranean violence
which our culture has so vividly enshrined. It was no small accident
that this memorial should be in the parking lot of a movie theater. The
violence used to sell movies is of such unspeakable depth that we have
lost our tongues and refused to mouth what our hearts have been telling
us. We cannot continue to ignore the content of imagination which is
being delivered to our young. The roots of violence run deeply into the
loam of this civilization. The causes are many, but the explicate
parading of violence is a misuse of the creative capacities which allow
us as humans to transcend the realm of raw animal aggression. This
misuse has come chillingly home to Columbine High School. Through the
sacrifice of its blue and white beauty the roots of violence are being
brought to the hearth of the entire world.
Suddenly to the west I see the source of the distant rumble which had
so shaken us from the south. Four airforce jets flying in formation are
between us and the mountains of the front range. They will continue to
circle us for the next hour. There is a beauty in their flight and a
disturbing distant echo of these same machines dropping bombs as we
stand in another part of the world.
Towards the end of the memorial a light rain begins. Umbrellas suddenly
unfold and the parking lot is paved with circles of color; small shields
which provide momentary respite from the elements and dangers which are
so patently clear to those gathered.
Doves are released, one for each student killed, and they too fly in
relationship to one another. The doves do not take off in different
directions. They are held by the hidden map of the heart which has
broken through the torment of the days to help guide balloons, birds and
And then the jets appear from the north. It is a flyby; a military
honor for ones slain in battle. The precision of their motion, the
thunder of their passage, and the deadly efficiency of their motion is a
difficult moment for me. Their sister formations are killing half a
world a way. The power of force to stop evil is being tested.
Reflecting on the actions of the killers there is a male fantasy which
emerges in my own mind. If I only could have been there and tackled them
then I might have saved the students. In following the feelings
associated with this fantasy I was astonished at the violence within my
own reaction. I found myself shredding the killers in my mind,s eye.
>From where springs this violence? This is an important question for
myself and for all of us. I fear the heroism of my fantasy is
situational. Like the mythical armies of old which spring to life with
each head removed the roots of the violence in Littleton cannot be
constrained by force. The violence must be reparented by relationship.
How do I respond to the hatred of the preacher is a question which I
must ask. I choose to walk by him and not challenge the hatred. In
retrospect I am suspect of my actions. Have I passed by an opportunity
for dialogue which may have had an effect? We are asked to consider all
the ways we deny the opportunity for dialogue as a way to heal the
divisions which sustain the violence of our world.
What do I do with the military presence at the memorial? Not only did
Air Force jets flyby, but Colin Powell, past chief of our armed forces,
was on the stage. The organized efficiency of our military has fought
two wars in recent times, Vietnam and the Gulf War, each of which has
left hundreds of thousands social casualties in its wake as the veterans
return with physical and psychological imbalances. We need to contain
violence, but if in that containment we sow the seeds of our cultures
own destruction then have we really contained it? Or has it broken out
yet again in the middle of Littleton? We must ask hard questions, and
answer them, about what true defense is and how our preoccupation with
power has possibly engendered this disaster.
The tender heart of this extraordinary afternoon is the best healing we
can bring to our schools, our communes and our nation; see if we can
walk in crowds linked through the heart in waves of elegance, see if we
can stand with strangers and realize we are joined together in this
school of life, see if we can end the battlefields within our homes and
communities which have made refugees of us all.
A spear of light has pierced the columbine. The shadows of its roots
are revealed and the precious innocence of its survivors find expression
in song and unity. That it took the calculated, systematic and coldly
executed actions of a few to release such light is a paradox I cannot
assume to understand. That the columbine is illuminated is a great hope
and comfort.
May we not turn our backs, out of expediency, to the light of this

Here are two more very insightful commentaries on the Columbine massacre.

The first makes an interesting complement to David La Chapelle's piece a week ago. It was entered into Doug Carmichael's Y2KWEEKX week 35, issue 34, May 4, 1999, by Seth Carmichael ( in his YOUTH AND Y2K section. He ties it to Y2K with the sentence: "How can you care if you are not taught to care, not cared for and don't know anyone that cares?" I find the essay particularly meaningful because it arrives, as I do, at high quality listening, dialogue and shared learning as the bottom line for constructive change.

If you don't subscribe to Doug Carmichael's free Y2KWEEKX email newsletter, I can't recommend it highly enough. It is the one regular posting that I read start-to-finish as soon as it comes, whatever else I'm doing. You can mail a subscription request to with message body: "subscribe y2kweek youremailaddresshere"

The second article explores the impact of pesticides on childhood aggression. Since most toxics research focuses on chemicals' roles in cancer, the aggression factor has received scant attention. Initial research suggests we'd be smart to open our collective eyes to it.

May we learn in time, and well.



Date: Mon, 26 Apr 1999 23:28:58 -0700
From: Devlin/Berk <>

Banning Black Trenchcoats is No Answer


The reactions (that I know about) at the public schools in my district tothe
events at Columbine have been:

* At the high school, the student council declared Wednesday blue-and-silver
day -- every child was to wear either a blue or a silver shirt. One student
wore his black trenchcoat instead. His name was called out over the loud
speaker; he was summoned down to the Principal's Office, where his
trenchcoat was confiscated. Then, the announcement was made that there are
to be no black trenchcoats worn at the high school and that students should
follow the student council's instructions. The student I spoke with said she
thought the student who wore the black trenchcoat got detention. The order
came down from some teachers -- mostly the Language Arts teachers and some
Geography teachers (that's where our students study current events, in
geography class), apparently -- that students should try to not exclude

* A police car was stationed outside the middle school office. Here, too,
students were to wear blue or silver shirts in solidarity with Columbine.
Ironic because our middle school kids don't HAVE blue shirts. Solid blue
shirts and solid red shirts are banned at our middle school, because blue is
a gang color. (I'm told a student was expelled from summer school because
she wore a blue sweatshirt.) The middle school events board has been left
blank for several days now. Parents of middle school students I've spoken
with theorize that Columbine provided the principal an excuse to make sure
that students and parents NOT know when/where meetings are being held. This
week, the middle school is scheduled to hold an assembly to reward the
"well-behaved" kids. If the school follows its standard procedure, the list
of the good kids will be posted on the office door for all to see, the good
kids will be marched out of their classes in front of the "bad" kids and the
school will pay $450 per showing for two shifts of "good" kids to watch
either lame nature specials or insipid films about gang violence. Parents
won't have the opportunity to have their children opt out. The administrator
has invited a reporter to attend this quarter's reward assembly because a
parent filed a complaint, hushed up by the district office, that these
assemblies unfairly discriminate against boys and minorities.

* A letter from the district office dated April 21 was sent home with
students. It listed the "Programs for Students" the district offers. These
include conflict resolution (we are not even given a phone number to call;
when I asked for the number at Site Council several months ago, neither
school administrator gave it to me), the counselors at the middle school and
high school (they are totally overworked; any time we call to speak with
them, we are told they deal exclusively with academic issues), and of course
a police liaison. Same old, same old. Satisfaction survey says: more than
92.3% of middle school teachers say they have no time to help individual
students and 71.4% of middle school support staff there say there are
problems with racial and ethnic discord.

* House lights and car lights were left on all weekend all over the
community, apparently in response to an Internet-based initiative forwarded
around by PTA-types.

Get real:

Requiring students to wear blue or silver or not to wear black trenchcoats
or leave lights on or turn lights off accomplishes nothing except to
alienate anyone intelligent enough to reject arbitrary rules.

Clothes do not kill people, unless they unduly stop circulation. Banning
black trenchcoats is not the solution. Humiliating students who WEAR black
trenchcoats has already been tried, and, I believe, has been proven

Books and philosophies and video games and rock music don't kill people.
They enunciate thoughts that disillusioned students are otherwise forbidden
to express.

People and guns and explosives and other weapons and germs kill people.
Stupidity kills people. Bullying kills people psychologically and then they
turn around and kill others physically and psychologically.

Overemphasizing what people look like, what they wear, how they differ from
us externally, whether or not they can afford a car or a fancy bicycle, isa
tool of bullies. And yet, these are the tools the public schools in our
district choose every time.

Here's a hint as to how to begin to address issues of student violence
without spending bunches of time or money: At the (private) school my
daughter currently attends, the reaction to the events at Columbine was to
have a meeting with the students at which everyone said what they wanted to
say about the situation at Columbine and in the world. Their reaction to the
situation in Kosovo was to begin an in-depth study of the geopolitical
causes of the conflict, starting before WWI.

The solution is not to claim that "Our programs are perfect; it can't happen
here." The solution is not to call in the Army, Navy, National Guard, police
or armed security guards. The solution is not to ban certain books, certain
colors, certain symbols and certain words. The solution is not to detain,
suspend or expel students who are different. The solution is not to arm the
teachers with weapons, but to arm them with strategies. The solution is to

Wishing you reasoned discourse that leads to peaceful solutions to our

Emily Berk


(if you'd like to listen to what the life of some kids in High School is like, read FEAR THE GEEK: Littleton's Silver Lining by Dan Savage. -- Marcello and Tom )


And thanks to Jan Nickerson for this intriguing reference, which suggests a strong link between pesticides and childhood aggression...


from Rachel's Environmental & Health Weekly #648


>For the past 25 years, tens of millions of Americans in hundreds
>of cities and towns have been drinking tap water that is
>contaminated with low levels of insecticides, weed killers, and
>artificial fertilizer. They not only drink it, they also bathe
>and shower in it, thus inhaling small quantities of farm
>chemicals and absorbing them through the skin. Naturally, the
>problem is at its worst in agricultural areas of the country.
>Now a group of biologists and medical researchers at the
>University of Wisconsin in Madison, led by Warren P. Porter, has
>completed a 5-year experiment putting mixtures of low levels of
>these chemicals into the drinking water of male mice and
>carefully measuring the results. They reported recently that
>combinations of these chemicals -- at levels similar to those
>found in the groundwater of agricultural areas of the U.S. --
>have measurable detrimental effects on the nervous, immune and
>endocrine (hormone) systems.[2] Furthermore, they say their
>research has direct implications for humans.

> They observed increased aggression from exposure to
>atrazine & nitrate, and from atrazine, aldicarb & nitrate
>The Wisconsin research team wrote, "Of particular signficance in
>the collective work of Boyd and others,[3] Porter and others,[4]
>and our current study[2] is that THYROID HORMONE CONCENTRATION
>CHANGE was consistently a response due to mixtures, but NOT
>usually to individual chemicals." [Emphasis in the original].
>In the five-year experiment, thyroid hormone levels rose or fell
>depending upon the mixture of farm chemicals put into the
>drinking water. Dr. Porter and his colleagues present evidence
>from other studies showing that numerous farm chemicals can
>affect the thyroid hormone levels of wildlife and humans. PCBs
>and dioxins can have similar effects, they note. Proper levels of
>thyroid hormone are essential for brain development of humans
>prior to birth. Some, though not all, studies have shown that
>attention deficit and/or hyperactivity disorders in children are
>linked to changes in the levels of thyroid hormone in the blood.
>Children with multiple chemical sensitivity (MCS) have abnormal
>thyroid levels. Furthermore, irritability and aggressive behavior
>are linked to thyroid hormone levels.
>Interviewed recently by Keith Hamm of the SANTA BARBARA [CAL.]
>INDEPENDENT,[5] Dr. Porter explained, "Earlier work had shown
>that thyroid hormone typically changed when exposure to these
>pesticides occurred. Thyroid hormone not only affects and
>controls your metabolic rate, that is, how fast you burn food,
>it also controls your irritability level. For example, Type A
>personalities are more assertive, more aggressive, more hyper.
>These people tend to have higher levels of thyroid hormone. Type
>B personalities--people that are really laid back, really take
>things very easily--have lower levels of thyroid hormone. We
>expected that changes in thyroid [would] change irritability
>levels. This was a concern because there was information that
>kids are getting more hyper and [that their] learning abilities
>are going down," Dr. Porter said.
>A recent study of 4 and 5 year-old children in Mexico
>specifically noted a decrease in mental ability and an increase
>in aggressive behavior among children exposed to pesticides.[6]


>Notably, in the Guillette study we find this description of the
>behavior of pesticide-exposed children: "Some valley children
>were observed hitting their siblings when they passed by, and
>they became easily upset or angry with a minor corrective
>comment by a parent. These aggressive behaviors were not noted
>in the [pesticide-free] foothills [children]."
>Because of recent violence in small cities and towns (such as
>Littleton, Colorado, Laramie, Wyoming, and Jasper, Texas), this
>is a time when Americans are searching for the causes of violence
>in their society. Some are blaming a decline in religious
>upbringing. Others are blaming households with the parents
>working and no one minding the kids. Some say the cause is
>violent movies, violent TV and extremist internet sites, combined
>with the ready availability of cheap guns. Still others point to
>a government that has often sanctioned the violence of "gunboat
>diplomacy" to open foreign markets for U.S. corporations.
>No one seems to be asking whether pesticides, fertilizers and
>toxic metals [see REHW #529, #551] are affecting our young
>people's mental capacity, emotional balance, and social
>adjustment. From the work of Warren Porter, Elizabeth Guillette
>and others, it is apparent that these are valid questions.
> --Peter Montague
>[2] Warren P. Porter, James W. Jaeger and Ian H. Carlson,
>"Endocrine, immune and behavioral effects of aldicarb
>(carbamate), atrazine (triazine) and nitrate (fertilizer)
>mixtures at groundwater concentrations," TOXICOLOGY AND
>INDUSTRIAL HEALTH Vol. 15, Nos. 1 and 2 (1999), pgs. 133-150.
>[3] C.A. Boyd, M.H. Weiler and W.P. Porter, "Behavioral and
>neurochemical changes associated with chronic exposure to
>low-level concentration of pesticide mixtures," JOURNAL OF
>pgs. 209-221.
>[4] W.P. Porter and others, "Groundwater pesticides: interactive
>effects of low concentrations of carbamates aldicarb and
>methamyl and the triazine metribuzin on thyroxine and
>somatotropin levels in white rats," JOURNAL OF TOXICOLOGY AND
>ENVIRONMENTAL HEALTH Vol. 40, No. 1 (September 1993), pgs.
>15-34. And see: W.P. Porter and others,
>"Toxicant-disease-environment interactions associated with
>suppression of immune system, growth, and reproduction," SCIENCE
>Vol. 224, No. 4652 (June 1, 1984), pgs. 1014-1017.
>[5] Keith Hamm, "What's In the Mix?" SANTA BARBARA [CALIFORNIA]
>INDEPENDENT April 15, 1999, pg. 21 and following pages. See
> Thanks to George Rauh for
>alerting us to this interview.
>[6] Elizabeth A. Guillette and others, "An Anthropological
>Approach to the Evaluation of Preschool Children Exposed to
>106, No. 6 (June 1998), pgs. 347-353.

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