“How do we treat each other? Why do we treat each other the way we do? Why do kids, who will soon ask these questions about their kids, continue to treat each other the same way? Why does this cycle never change, even after the kids themselves resort to bombs and guns and butchering their fellow students to prove a point? Why do we look for an easy way out-a pill to take, a program to shut off-when we know that something deep inside us has to change? What are we afraid of?”-PJ Paperelli.
In 1999, in Littleton Colorado, two boys by the names of Eric Harris and Dylan Klebold took guns and bombs to blow up their entire school, Columbine High School. They ended up killing 15 people, including taking their own lives. It is probably the most notorious school shooting of all time. And it was this that prompted PJ Paperelli to write the play columbinus. Over the past several months I’ve had the honor of being a part of my college’s production of that show, playing the part of “Faith.” There is so much I want to say about this experience, I might just have to write several posts to focus on different aspects. I was so blessed to be able to work with such an incredible cast who honestly blew my mind. The amount of talent in that show was incredible. I felt honored that they all welcomed me in even though I was a newbie. I suppose I could talk about how God helped me realize how much potential I had and worked in me during this time to help me overcome a lot of insecurities and fears I had. Throughout my time working there, I was tempted to fall back into old habits; being shy, hiding in the back, not talking to people; but I didn’t. And that was all God. I could tell you about the people who made me feel like I mattered; the people who made me laugh until my stomach hurt. I could certainly tell you that I now adore theatre and have been listening to the soundtrack for Wicked ever since the show ended, or how much I like getting to step on the stage and be someone else for a few hours; someone who isn’t scared, who isn’t anxious, and who isn’t me.
In the two or so months that we were preparing for the show, 3 school shootings took place. The fact that they still happen regularly were scary. Some days it was hard to go to rehearsal and put myself in those shoes. The first day our director told us “If you’re on antidepressants, you might want to up your dosage.” Some of the cast had nightmares about school shootings. I’m one of those people. The leads especially had a hard time being in the mind of killers for so long. I was constantly thinking about those tragic events. I kept asking myself “why?”
We live in a messed up world. Tragic things happen every day. And there are times when we feel hopeless. People get bullied, ignored, rejected, and spit upon. Sometimes we resort to violence because there is just so much pain inside. Some people don’t know how to deal with it all. The scariest truth is, we are all capable of evil. I look at Eric and Dylan and think about if that could have been me. Maybe I shouldn’t. But I do. We look down on people who act on such evil; people who kill and murder. But I think Eric and Dylan were more or less like us. Being in this show forced me to confront my own inner monster. Those dark thoughts we all have are inside of us. So what do we do with them?
I can’t claim to know why those boys decided it would be a good idea to blow up their school, but I know they were bullied relentlessly. I know I question how we treat each other on a daily basis. I wonder why I’m not more careful with my words and actions. Just the thought of having so much pain inside of you that you turn to a gun makes me want to cry. That’s so much pain. I can’t fathom it. Yet even after living through these nightmares, we still walk around and treat each other horribly. I’m saying this because I do it. We all do. We hear about kids killing themselves because they felt so hopeless and alone and we’re shaken for a day or so but then life goes on. You get angry with a coworker, make fun of a class mate for some laughs. And you fall right back into the cycle that got us here in the first place.
The truth is, I believe this could have been prevented. Columbine, Sandy Hook, Amanda Todd’s suicide, Grover Cleveland Elementary; all of it. But when tragic things like these happen, we look for some magical solution. One easy fix-all method. And there isn’t one. We can blame things up and down but, just like Papperelli said, something inside us needs to change.
“A life without Christ is a life that is never fixed.” KJ-52 said that in his song “Dear Slim.” When I think of Columbine, that’s the line that always comes to mind. You can go through all the therapies in the world, have the greatest friends, be on the most successful medications, only watch things rated PG, and never touch screamo music, but at the end of the day, you are still without hope. Jesus is our only hope. The longer I live, the more I realize that. We need God to change those parts in us, to fix what has been broken. We have been scrambling around trying to fix ourselves and it has gotten us nowhere. You would think by now we would have realized our attempts are futile. Jesus Christ is the hope of the world; if we fully believed this truth I can’t even imagine the world we would live in. This is such a profound truth that it should change the very essence of our being. It should change how we treat others and view the world; it would help us not pick fights about things that don’t matter, it would give us the courage to stand up and defend the defenseless, it would give us faith to live audaciously. It would change the world.
So what can we do?
We can show God’s love to a broken world. We can be honest about ourselves. We can talk about subjects that are hard. We can choose to be brave in the face of whatever fears come our way. I mean, either that or you can close your eyes and pretend like this isn’t happening. It’s your choice really. You have the one thing that can save the world; what’s holding you back?
This show will always touch my heart. The last “Why?” I wanted to discuss is why I auditioned for a show that was actually very vulgar and sexual. Because it matters and its real. It’s authentic and not watered down. I never want to water down the truth of life. I like things that are brutally honest. I never want to give you some half hearted version of reality. I want the truth; no matter how ugly that truth is. I hope you can say the same.
Thank you to everyone who came out to watch the show. You made me feel like a star. And since you know full well how emotional it was, I expect you guys to rise to my challenge. Be the change.
“Who’s the blame for the lives that tragedies claim? No matter what you say it won’t take away the pain that I feel inside. I’m tired of all the lies. Don’t nobody know why, it’s the blind leading the blind. I guess that’s the way that the story goes. Well it never makes sense. Somebodies gotta know. There’s gotta be more to life than this, there’s got to be more to everything I thought exists.”-Youth Of The Nation, POD..
“It’s been a few years now, and just the other day I was driving past the school and I stopped at the stoplight and I looked at the kids yelling at each other on the sidewalk, guys on the court, the normalness of it all. And then I saw a kid get out of his car…he had on baggy pants, a lot of chains, combat boots, and a long black trench coat. My god! I had to pull off to the road. Now, what was going through my head must have been going through everyone’s head from that day until now…like that look, those clothes meant evil. Evil was present. But Christ, how the he** would I know if that kids evil unless I actually talk to him? So how do I think differently about someone? For days after yeah, we all did. But time passes and we still make judgments, call people sh*t, and continue on, just as before. Even after living through your friends dying and those sounds of gunblasts and the fear of walking down those halls again…all of that. Who knows? Maybe I have changed. For the moment, I’m different. But is that enough?”
–columbinus, written by PJ Paperelli.