This is another one of those terrible school massacres except this time it was with blades and not guns. You want to know what’s creepy is that I walk by a kindergarten classroom every day and there is a little graph with the question “Who Likes Bey Blades?” and tally marks. Of course it doesn’t refer to knife blades but just for the sake of argument, well, brrrrr…. anyway. Today in Pittsburgh, Franklin Region Public High School, a 16-year-old boy, Alex Hribal, tried to kill people. He critically wounded several kids, seriously wounded four kids, but not all of the 20 injured at Franklin Regional High School were cut by the knife, though most were, Westmoreland County emergency management spokesman Dan Stevens said. Some suffered scrapes and cuts in the mayhem that erupted at about 7:15 a.m. at the school in Murrysville, about 24 kilometres east of Pittsburgh.. I get so sad when I hear about those tragedies. I start crying (okay, I don’t sob and break down…I have a little better self-control than that) and thinking how sad it is not just for the victims but the attacker/potential killer, too.
“Sorry for the creature?” Tom Ewell asks Marilyn Monroe in the Seven Year Itch as they emerge from a movie theatre with the title, “Creature from the Black Lagoon” on the marquis. Monroe replies “he wasn’t really all bad. I think he just craved a little affection, you know a sense of being loved and needed and wanted.”At first glance everyone wants to hate the “bad guy”, “the creature.” I understand that. It’s a natural reaction to think “this kid stabbed and slashed several of his peers and I should feel sorry for him?’ No one is saying you have to feel sorry for a teenager who runs through his school wielding two knives trying to kill people. But I do believe and have always believed that people who are capable of sudden, uncontainable violence have many complex issues. For one thing there has to be a mental health issue. People like to say a person can just be evil and perhaps there is something to that.
I read this really great novel called, I think, The Green Room. I know the little book was a green hardcover and the font was green. I can’t remember who wrote it but I remember the philosophies the author shared as to what happens as we die. The protagonist has died and gone to heaven (literally). He is a soul wandering around heaven and asking a lot of questions about how things work in heaven and on earth. He finds a soul-maker and asks him “what about Adolf Hitler?” The soul-maker shrugs and replied, “he’s one of the souls that slipped by us. We didn’t mean to let him out.” Of course this argues that a person is born evil rather than made into an evil person. I disagree. I do think people can be born with the potential to be pathological but I don’t think anyone is born evil. If that was the case there would be far more crime and evil in this world than there is now. And so far it’s bad. Interesting concept but I’m not buying into it personally. The act itself is evil, certainly, but does that apply also to this unhappy child?
A motive has not yet been determined, but investigators are examining a possible connection with reports about a threatening phone call between the suspect and another student the night before the attack. It was not clear whether the suspect reportedly made or received the call. Seven teens and one adult were listed in serious condition at Forbes Hospital, West Penn Allegheny Health System spokeswoman Jennifer Davis said. They ranged in age from 15 to 60, and some were in surgery, she said. A ninth victim, a 15-year-old girl, was in good condition at Allegheny Hospital, Davis said. The student at a Pennsylvania high school “wasn’t a real well-liked kid” and had made death threats to students before, the brother of a witness told ABCNews.com. “I guess the kids who got the threats just assumed it’s no big deal,” he said, noting his sister was “about a foot or two” from another student who was stabbed. At one point, Hribal tackled another student, said the source, who asked not to be named. “He jumped on the kid’s back and was stabbing him pretty hard,” said the source, whose sister escaped the school unharmed.
I believe that a person can be raised in an evil environment. For instance, children raised in war zones around the globe are definitely living amongst evil. I believe many people have no business raising children, whether they hit them or not. But I don’t believe that we are simply born evil. That is an excuse. It’s giving someone the easy way out. That makes no more sense than not placing this child on trial because we all agree he’s just “evil.” I think this boy is mentally ill, whether or not he has been diagnosed and whether or not he has displayed “symptoms” (mentally ill people often display signficant symptoms but people around them fail to comprehend the signs). What happened in this boy’s life that made him so filled with hate? What drove a teenager to take two knives and stab his peers repeatedly with them in an attempt to take their lives? This isn’t normal behaviour therefore there is an abnormal explanation. No he isn’t simply evil. That’s just silly. He’s been terribly injured if not in reality then certainly from his own perspective, in his mind.
I read once in a textbook by a psychologist (darned if I can remember who or what it was called) that whether or not a violent criminal who had childhood memories of being abused or punished was correct, the important thing was that this criminal believed it in his own mind. And this was what made him dangerous and drove him to his criminal behaviour (along with other issues). I don’t believe the teenage killer (or killer wannabe) is that simple a person. I also don’t think we should presume that his family is abusive. They probably aren’t. If there is a mental health issue there have to be many more influences that simply that. The media is a huge issue. Some people have more exposure to it than others and I mean years of it.
I know very good people with serious mental health issues. They see a psychiatrist regularly. They take their medications faithfully. They are kind, decent people who have good careers and would never run about with two knives in their hands (I can picture one of my friends, who has a wonderful sense of humour, saying, ‘well they taught me in Kindergarten not to run with scissors in my hand in case I hurt myself’). I do find a terrible irony in the fact that it is essentially believed that behaviour change come through knowledge and these student massacres, (in this case by knife), happen in schools. And in the fact that although school massacres are on the increase in the United States, no one seems to have a prevention program in place.
There may or may not be a trial. If this boy pleads guilty to a lesser charge then there will not be a trial. If he refuses to take a plea or the prosecution won’t allow him a plea, then millions of people will watch this sad trial unfold. Some will be vengeful and say “stick him in prison and let the men there kill him!” Others will say “well there’s no doubt he’s guilty so they have to jail him” still others like me will say “there is something wrong with this child. He needs to spend at least some of his sentence in an institution for the criminally insane”. Some people will say “put him to death…eye for an eye.” At the same time, this boy, like most students who partake in massacres against their peers, was an outcast and wasn’t well-liked. We don’t yet know why and the answer is sure to be complex. Whatever the outcome I’m just relieved I’m not on the jury or the judge’s bench.