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[whitespace] Lay Off Marin

John Walker is deluded, but does anybody remember Columbine?

By Dan Savage

Remember the school shooting in Jonesboro, Ark., that left five dead and 10 wounded? How about the school shooting in West Paducah, Ky.? Or Springfield, Ore.? The mother of all school shootings took place in Littleton, Colo., on April 20, 1999, when Eric Harris and Dylan Klebold opened fire at Columbine High School. The two had been planning an attack on their school for more than a year and managed to kill 12 students and one teacher before killing themselves.

Now here's an interesting fact: Littleton voted for Bob Dole in 1996 and George W. Bush in 2000. Jonesboro also went for Bush in 2000, as did West Paducah. Springfield bucked the school-shooting-cities-for-Bush trend and voted for Gore.

What difference does it make who the residents of Littleton supported for president?

Quite a lot, if right-wing pundits are to be believed. According to conservative commentators, John "American Taliban" Walker tells us everything we'll ever need to know about Marin County, where Walker grew up.

Writing in the Washington Times, Wesley Pruden insists Walker is "bad news . . . for hot-tub liberalism." How Walker wound up in Afghanistan fighting for the Taliban, Pruden writes, "will be the stuff of endless argument, harangue, and speculation."

Then Pruden speculates that Walker--whose parents still live in San Anselmo--is the logical end product of a culture that doesn't teach the young "very much about right, wrong, God, flag, and country." In Marin, political liberalism, permissive parents, and moral relativism all combine to create murderous traitors.

Right-wing commentators have also accused liberals of wanting to excuse Walker's crimes. "I don't think John was doing anything wrong," John Walker's father famously told a TV news reporter. "We want to give him a big hug and then a little kick in the butt for not telling us what he was up to."

But Walker's parents are about the only people in the United States who think Walker's life should be spared--even most liberals want to pack Walker off to paradise--and the anguish of Walker's parents is understandable.

What did they expect Walker's father to say? "Please hang my son"? My-kid- converted-to-Islam- and- took-up-arms- against-his-country is not exactly covered in What to Expect When You're Expecting.

And if John Walker's actions--or his "journey," as they say in San Anselmo--tell us everything we need to know about that part of the country, then Eric Harris and Dylan Klebold must tell us everything we need to know about Littleton, Colo.

If growing up in Marin means Walker was taught too little about right, wrong, God, flag, and country, perhaps growing up in Littleton means Harris and Klebold were taught too much about these same things. The pair seems to have been well versed in their Second Amendment rights, that's for sure.

If political liberalism, permissive parents, and moral relativism create murderous traitors, then conservative small towns apparently create school shooters. And Milwaukee creates cannibals (Jeffrey Dahmer), Boston creates stranglers, and London creates rippers named Jack.

The right simply can't have it both ways: If one son of liberal Marin joining the Taliban and taking up arms against his country proves that Marin breeds traitors, then two sons of conservative Littleton taking up arms against their defenseless classmates proves something similar about Littleton.

Or, hey, maybe all that Marin's Walker and Littleton's Harris and Klebold can prove is that some people are murderous, deluded little shits, and that these murderous shits grow up in both liberal and conservative parts of the country. Like Harris and Klebold, Walker is an American tragedy, not Marin's tragedy.

Walker was a creation of the political left no more than Harris and Klebold are creations of the political right.

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From the January 10-16, 2002 issue of the North Bay Bohemian.

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