Wednesday, April 18, 2012

Something About the Spring...

And we don't mean disaster as in I ordered a Venti Misto & they gave me a Tall Chai. If you use a word like disaster for that you should probably kill yourself.



In the Spring, young men's minds turn to thoughts of fancy, or so they say.  However if you're a fan of the history channel, the weather networks and cable news, then you're more likely to be thinking that April is one of the most disastrous and violent months of the year.

In fact the days between of April12th to 20th are filled with numerous anniversaries of bad shit happening.  Everything from natural disasters, to mass murders, and terrorist attacks -- so much in fact that when the United States' Department of Homeland Security introduced their colour-coded threat level system in response to the September 11th attacks, this week was automatically designated as an Orange Alert.  That is, the threat level is raised to High Alert...


We all know some of the infamous, major historic events like Titanic, who just celebrated her centennial on April 15th, and the assassination of Abraham Lincoln on April 16th, 1865.

But let's take a disturbing trip down memory lane at five of the intense psycho-dramas and violent acts of nature that mark this week in April as one of the most exhausting for entropy fans everywhere.  In case you forgot about some, I'll remind you now it gets kinda heavy and icky from here on out...



5. San Francisco Earthquake, April 18th 1906



Before Pat Roberston was around to proclaim natural disasters like this happen in America because God hates bum sex, the blame for California's seismic troubles lay with the San Andreas Fault.  Measuring in somewhere around an 8 on the William Riker scale, it's believed that between the quake itself and ensuing fires that razed the city, close to 3,000 people were killed.




One of the enduring impacts has been the mission to design quake-proof foundations for even the tallest skyscrapers erected from San Francisco to L.A.  Some structures today, like the U.S. Bank Tower, incorporate all sorts of shock absorbing technology in the foundation and are built to accommodate an amount of sway in their upper floors so as not to have their backs broken like the majority of structures in 1906.




4. Waco Texas Siege of April, 19th 1993



When you lock up your family and fellow cultists in your fortified ranch like David Koresh did at his Branch Davidian compound in 1993, you're going to attract a little attention.  A preacher with a stockpile of weapons large enough to storm a town, Koresh's followers engaged in a bloody standoff with the ATF that lasted more than two months.






After a number of small gunfights in which the authorities appeared to be having their asses handed to them by a sect of religious nuts, things went over the edge when the FBI finally stormed the compound on April 19th.  When the ensuing blaze and blitzkrieg was over, nearly 80 people in the compound had been killed, and worse for the authorities' PR, a whack of them were children.


 "We're not letting any of those nuts commit suicide,
even if we have to kill every last one of them..."

The aftermath really is clouded to this day since there is ongoing debate surrounding who started the inferno and who fired the first shots but from '93 onward, the FBI and ATF would continue to be criticized for aggressiveness and incompetence in handling similar scenarios like the ones that followed, nearly to the day, 2 and then 6 years after Waco, respectively.




3. Oklahoma City Bombing, April 19th 1995



Nearly 200 people were murdered in what in the pre-9/11 days was the largest terrorist attack on the U.S.  The early reports that came after a truck bomb ripped through the Alfred P. Murrah Federal Building in Oklahoma City told authorities to be on the lookout for two men of middle-eastern decent.  Since the first bombing attack at the World Trade Center, two years prior, it perhaps wasn't completely crazy that the first suspicions centered on Islamist Fundamentalists.






But then came the arrest of a couple white dudes.  The main conspirator in the plot, Timothy McVeigh was a Gulf War Vet and militant gun-nut who had targeted the Murrah Building to destroy the ATF and FBI offices at the site in retaliation for, among other stuff, the agencies' "tyrannical" handling of the Waco incident.  Also in the same building was a daycare, of which 19 children were killed in the blast.  Regardless of any pretense of political action, few outside of the lunatic fringe had much sympathy for this mass murderer and McVeigh despite, a rousing interview on 60 Minutes, was executed.



There is no why, just insanity.


In the fallout, debates raged over everything from Second Amendment rights to the death penalty, and legislation was enacted surrounding how trials are carried out for domestic terrorism suspects.  However, any way you slice it, mass acts of violence have rarely ever helped any cause.  If you're cool with murdering children to prove a point, you'll at worst welcome the wrath of any civilized human being, and at best alienate your fellow travelers of whatever stream of bullshit you profess.




2. Columbine High School Massacre, April 20th 1999



Contrary to reports at the time, the victims were more or less picked at random.


More than ten years after the methodically planned killing-spree that took 12 lives and injured 21 others in Littleton, Colorado, Columbine remains the most high-profile school shooting in U.S. history.   Questions persist even now as to the clear motives behind two upper-middle class boys decision to murder their peers but the issue of bullying remains the prevailing talking point.





What's unique in this case is that the two kids who carried out the attack, Eric Harris and Dylan Klebold, planned and prepared for months in advance, collecting bomb-making materials, even enlisting an older friend to purchase weapons from gun shows.  They drew maps, lists of supplies, recorded hours of video-taped rants (the infamous, never released "basement tapes") even a timetable for how the day would unfold.  All the while they were writing essays and stories for class about going on rampages, filled with violent imagery, trying to convey how angry they felt at the world.  Hmm.






Hindsight is always 20-20, and the picture that has emerged is one of two, seriously depressed, angry young men who shared many signs of the trouble they were in with disparate sources.  Just as important as anti-bullying initiatives is the implementing of resources to share information with counselors when a kid is writing violent stories, collecting books about weapons, having mood swings, etc.

Growing up is a fucked up enough process and it's hard to distinguish budding creative, if melancholy genius from clinical depression and suicidal tendencies.  But there's little doubt now that if someone examines more than just a small part of the picture, something can be done to prevent pain from swelling into violence.




1. Virginia Tech Massacre, April 16th 2007



That brings us to April of 2007, our last stop on this excruciating excursion and what is currently the worst school shooting in America to date.  Seung-Hui Cho, a student at the Virginia Polytechnic Institute in Blacksburg, methodically walked the grounds of the school, shooting students in a residence and engineering hall.



In the end, 32 lay dead making this the worst attack by a single perpetrator in U.S. history.  Once again, many of the same issues from Columbine arose, this time focusing on the fact that Cho had a well-documented history of mental illness but this information was not shared with the school.  Like the killers at Columbine, Cho had produced disturbing writings and even made references to repeating Columbine - the difference is this time, teachers and counselors intervened to set up psychiatric treatment.


 


Tragically, for all well and good reasons of privacy, the breadth of his mental health issues were not shared with Virginia Tech and as it deteriorated Cho fell through the cracks.  There's really no determining signs for anyone to cite as a threat to public safety, the combination of external and internal factors make it impossible to distinguish early mental health issues like clinical depression from the stress and pressures of being a teenager and growing up.

Or maybe April just shitty cause it's final exam time, Mom and Dad are loosing their shit over Tax returns, the weather doesn't know day to day if it's summer yet or or still the ass end of winter, and there's usually only the shittiest movies playing this time of year.  Like Nat King Cole, part of it may be that everybody's aching to roll out those Lazy Hazy Crazy Days O' Summer...

Here's a Dancing Cat just to lighten the damn mood :(

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