Or will read for many days to come. Commenter rossaforbes, on a post over at John Hayden’s blog (which seems to keep changing its name 🙂 ) responded to my remarks about the Sandy Hook school shooting — which has been talked to death everywhere, but usually with little insight — by contributing a link to a terrific essay about this type of event. The writer shares my gut instinct about mass killings committed by bright, isolated kids like Adam Lanza: simply, as a nation we treat our bright young people so badly (or at least do so little to prevent their ill-treatment), we value them so poorly, that it would be surprising if things like this didn’t happen. Leave aside, for now, the immediate glaring issue of how easy it is to get your hands on a firearm; enough people are talking about that. When I was eleven years old and being hounded and harassed to the brink of tolerance by classmates two years older than I was — because I used “big words” and liked Brahms symphonies better than the Beatles and would rather do Yoga than play kickball — I had an ace card some kids don’t: I might have been a four-eyed geek, but I was also, in my imagination, John Henry and Brynhild and the miner in the Sixteen Tons song, and when I blew my stack, six heckling little eighth-grade bitches ended up in the nurse’s office. Ordnance wasn’t as common in 1966. But beating the shit out of people does, sometimes, at least get you respect.
I’m looking at you, President Obama. It may sound profound to stand up there with your bare face hanging out and talk about “unimaginable evil,” but let’s take some time to think about the unimaginable evil committed every day when smart, sensitive kids are thrown into the dens of hyenas that we call kindergartens, elementary and middle schools — barely distinguishable from prisons in which the “sisters” and bullies actually run the social order, while the wardens, excuse me, teachers and administrators, do little more than keep the inmates warehoused and jumping through the prescribed hoops. Let’s think about the holocaust of human potential that occurs on an ongoing basis, instead of just wringing our hands about bright kids who “underachieve” or about the ones who melt down entirely. And let’s ask, for pity’s sake, what the hell is wrong with a nation that so hates and fears intellectual agility.
Here is the full essay, linked in three parts at the Daily Beast.
“We have a love-hate relationship with talent in American society. Certain forms of talent we easily respect: talent at athletics, talent for entertainment. Unfortunately for people like me, intelligence isn’t a talent American culture respects. At all. Even our supposedly pro-geek culture today isn’t born of love of intelligence, but of love of the money generated by intelligence. Did anyone appreciate Mark Zuckerberg or Steve Jobs before they got rich? The one TV show that deals (insufficiently) with what it’s like to be an outcast – Glee – takes care to ensure that all of its protagonists possess a talent that is completely non-academic. It says something that our politicians go to great lengths to portray themselves as regular folk writ large, even when they’re demonstrably not, rather than as smart and/or capable leaders. Those who portray themselves (or get portrayed) as capable rather than relatable … lose.”
The implications go a long, long way beyond school shootings. Because when capable people lose, we all lose.