Tragedy At Red Lake - WHY?
Another shocked elder, a member of the American Indian Movement, stated these things only happen at white schools like Columbine not here on the reservation. Why sir, because Indians are different? They don’t do these things!
The signs of the impending massacre were there for everyone to see. The swastikas he was always drawing. The macabre comic books he created - people shooting one another, skeletons and death.
There are only 5,000 people living on the Red Lake Reservation and about 300 students in the school. So, how come no one could see what was coming? According to Reuters News service, “A 17 year old boy (Jeff Weise) who killed nine people and himself on a Minnesota Indian reservation identified himself as an ‘angel of death’ and a ‘Native Nazi’ on Internet postings.”
He was described as a “weird” loner who wore Gothic black, black eyeliner and was often teased by his classmates. His father had committed suicide some four years before. His mother was in a nursing home with apparent brain damage from an automobile accident. Jeff must have been living with relatives and had been placed in a home tutoring program for having violated school rules.
Here is the profile of young man plagued by personal misfortunes with a serious “attitude” problem and an outspoken admiration for Adolph Hitler and his ideals. He also claimed to have been questioned by police in 2004 about an alleged plot to shoot up the school on the anniversary of Hitler’s birthday.
Jeff Weise was “a ticking time bomb” and no one did anything about it. But, what was one supposed to do? Where is the law that says people cannot wear black and spout out admiration for Adolph Hitler? What about their civil rights?
For starters, we all can begin to recognize no one – red, white, black, brown or yellow - is immune to depression and its effects. No one likes to be ridiculed or “put down”.
Young people can be terribly cruel and insensitive. They are dominated by peer pressure and want to be a part of the “in crowd” so if a leader of the pack starts to pick on one individual the rest of them follow suit.
Situations like this are becoming all too common. It takes a certain degree of intelligence, commitment and compassion for a student to have the guts to break away from the pack and acknowledge someone like Jeff Weise. Even a simple "Hi" might have been a start.
School counselors and teachers should be trained to recognize students with problems and be able to spot the first signs of harassment by others toward the individual and immediately stop it. This disturbed young man was obviously very intelligent. He had made the honor roll several times at the school. Where was the teacher who could have stepped in to channel his creative talents to a more positive direction, say, through nature and Native ways? The possibilities are endless.
If torment is allowed to fester in a disturbed young mind, defense mechanisms are triggered and the end result is usually a desire for revenge unless someone steps forward. No one stepped in to help Jeff Weise so he not only got mad, he got even.
When you see someone like Jeff put yourself in his moccasins, so to speak. Try to figure out what makes him tick and how he must feel about himself and others. Then, treat him the way you would want others to treat you under the same circumstances.
This approach might save some lives. Maybe even yours!
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