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Letters: Jan. 1, 2000

10 minute read


People seem to be mystified about why the shooting of high school students at Columbine happened [SPECIAL REPORT, Dec. 20], but the answer is staring us plainly in the face. Like the parents of gunmen Eric Harris and Dylan Klebold, who did not notice the early warning signs, society fails to see the path down which it has been heading for some time. Harris and Klebold were themselves victims of a world that left them in a perpetual state of misery. They were desperately searching to find some way not to go out as losers. PAUL FEDERICI St. Catharines, Ont.

TIME’s irresponsible cover has given Harris and Klebold the celebrity they wanted. And when an equally irresponsible director like Quentin Tarantino makes the movie, these twisted boys will have achieved the fame for which they killed and ruined so many lives. JUDITH C. BARKLEY San Diego

I am the parent of two students at Columbine High. Do you think that looking at Harris and Klebold on the cover of your magazine holding the automatic weapons that killed or physically or mentally maimed our children will give us a sense of resolution? It’s more like pouring salt on the wounds. To release your story just before Christmas–one that for many parents and siblings will be the most difficult of their lives–shows a shocking lack of compassion. I do think the story needs to be told, but your timing was callous. The picture–never. JOANNE ABEL Littleton, Colo.

I feel pity for Klebold and Harris. How do we let kids get so lost, feel so alone, that they would do something like this? Their actions were not the fault of their parents or their teachers. These boys were simply victims of the way our society treats teenagers, and they changed from lonely, outcast little boys to violent, homicidal young boys. LANI BROWN Portales, N.M.

Your managing editor’s explanation of why TIME chose to do the story was as insightful an analysis of the situation as I’ve seen: “This story is not so much about kids seeking glory as it is about grownups not looking and seeing, about people who preferred to sugarcoat rather than confront reality.” There’s no doubt we are all now looking, but as these tragedies continue, it’s obvious that most of us still aren’t seeing. ROB DONAHUE Evanston, Ill.

With the publicity you have created over the home videotapes that the shooters wanted the world to see, you have passed from reporting the news to participating in the event. Now every potential nutcase will know that if he does something bad enough, TIME is sure to publish his words and the message he wants to send. I fear for the future. LARRY SCHULTZ Bellevue, Wash.

You noted that some people would be writing to you saying they had to hide the Columbine issue from their children. But I beg those parents to share the magazine with their children. Your report may be chilling, but it puts a face on the killers, words in their mouths and shows the frightening emotions they felt. An article like this needs to be shown to young adults, since we are the ones in school every day.

Parents, don’t shelter your children. This is what is going on in their world. Maybe by showing them the story, you can prompt them to recognize someone they consider a threat. It could save lives. CARISSA FOX, age 16 Philadelphia

One comment in your story that particularly caught my eye was made by Columbine football player Evan Todd. He justified the teasing of the “rejects” by calling them “homos.” The picture he painted reflects the narrow-minded and offensive climate that fills Columbine High. It is comments like Todd’s that fuel the anger, embarrassment and feelings of inadequacy of people like Harris and Klebold, because these youngsters do not fit the acceptable mold. To say as others do that “the whole social-cruelty angle was overblown” is ridiculous. As a senior in high school, I have watched for the past 3 1/2 years as the wrath of social pressure has destroyed the self-confidence and self-worth of dozens of friends and classmates. It’s sad that name callers believe their comments are harmless. Everyone has self-esteem, whether they carry a gun or not. JESSICA TSAY, age 16 Brookline, Mass.

In the workplace, calling someone a “homo” is a fireable offense, possibly prosecutable under law. If a “whole school” is indulging in this kind of hate speech, then that whole school should be held accountable for it–everyone! The lesson of discouraging hate speech such as that used by Evan Todd obviously still needs to be learned. ROSLYN REID Bernardsville, N.J.

Perhaps the principal at Columbine was naive in believing that everything at his school was running smoothly. The reports about how some Columbine students flicked catsup packets or tossed bottles at these kids in the cafeteria, and how others teased Harris and Klebold, show there was a distinct lack of acceptance of people for who they are. It’s possible that if the individuality of Harris and Klebold had been channeled in the right direction, none of this would have happened. The school principal needs to take another long, hard look at what is going on beneath the surface at his school. A lot of the answers lie in the comments made by Evan Todd. MARC DE FONDAUMIERE Johannesburg

While I believe what Harris and Klebold did was wrong, one can see how difficult life was for them. I found it interesting that your cover on the April massacre called the boys “The Monsters Next Door.” In light of the tapes, in which the boys apologized to their families, these young men were not totally merciless or without feeling and regret. MICHAEL MCMANUS, age 17 Manchester, England

It certainly sounds as if Columbine is, like many other large American high schools, a toxic environment for those who dare to be different. MARIE LOZON Ann Arbor, Mich.


It is time to cross that fine line between a teenager’s right to privacy and a parent’s right to know [SPECIAL REPORT, Dec. 20]. If only the parents of the boys had looked, they would have found the clocks used as explosive timing devices and the pipe bombs that were intended to kill. Wake up, parents! A periodic search of your child’s room may reveal secret activities and intentions. What you seek and find now may head off disaster later. ILENE SCHWABER Allenwood, N.J.


The Columbine tapes gave me chills, but not for the politically correct reasons [SPECIAL REPORT, Dec. 20]. You see, that was me at 17. I was like those kids on the tapes. I hated everybody at school; I was an outcast loner who mostly stayed home and listened to gangsta rap. I wanted to kill the school leaders, the “members,” everybody who had screwed me. My plans for mass murder never got beyond the fantasy stage, but under the right circumstances, they could have gone as far as Columbine. How can we stop kids who will kill? Many need mental-health intervention. Many simply need someone their own age who gives a damn about them as a person. Teens want approval from their peers, and not getting it can lead to horrible consequences. NAME WITHHELD BY REQUEST Sacramento, Calif.

I was beaten up and teased in school. I was called gay, even though I am not. I was attacked mercilessly on physical, verbal and emotional levels. My crimes? Scoring well on tests. Being friendly. Playing politely with children of other ages, genders, etc. I’m lucky that my years in public school didn’t change me, but the other students certainly tried to do so. If they had succeeded–who knows? Maybe I would have gone the way of Harris and Klebold. The student abusers are trying to cover up their actions and shift the blame to someone else. That makes them very nearly as bad as the horrible young Columbine killers. SPENCER M. LEASE Medford, Mass.


the portrait you gave us of republican presidential candidate John McCain is of a man fully alive [CAMPAIGN 2000, Dec. 13]. His heroic military past is astonishing. McCain is at times a statesman and crusader and at others a family man, raconteur or stand-up comic. His mixture of humanity, honor and humor is unique to the present political scene. He wins you over with his personality and his message. OLIVER HARPER Phoenix, Ariz.

Other than the second coming of Harry Truman, the best thing that could happen to the U.S. would be the election of McCain. He alone of the candidates has demonstrated the moral courage and integrity to lead this country. HOWARD WEINBERG Weirton, W.Va.


Your article on the murder of army Private Barry Winchell [NATION, Dec. 13] included a caption for a photograph of me that was misleading. I was referred to as “Winchell’s cross-dressing friend.” I was more than just a friend. I was Barry’s lover and girlfriend. Also, a cross-dresser is generally thought to be a heterosexual male who wears women’s clothes. I am a male-to-female transgendered person, meaning I feel mentally, emotionally and spiritually that I am a woman. CALPERNIA SARAH ADDAMS Nashville, Tenn.


Why all the hand wringing over what happened to NASA’s Mars Polar Lander [SPACE, Dec. 20]? The Martians took one look at the ugly contraption, said, “There goes the neighborhood,” and zapped it. It’s as obvious as the noses on my face. FORREST G. WOOD Bakersfield, Calif.

The latest catastrophic crackup involving the $194 million Mars Polar Lander clearly shows–once again–that NASA’s remote-control system to land its unmanned spacecraft softly on other planets incorporates unacceptable limitations. The best stage in the exploration of Mars will lie in a manned mission. But this can’t happen until there are significant breakthroughs in rocket-fuel flights to attain far higher speeds. All exploration of Mars should be put on hold. The Red Planet can afford to wait. If life ever existed on that icy, parched-dry, dead world, it petered out not less than 3 billion years ago. CARLOS MELENDEZ Oceanside, Calif.


Readers of your report on Mexico’s drug cartels [WORLD, Dec. 13] might believe that those who live along the U.S.-Mexico border lead lives totally dominated by the drug business. Silly me, I thought I was among hundreds of thousands of people in El Paso and Juarez who work every day at responsible jobs, earn honest dollars, come home to drug-free families, volunteer in the community, give to charity and aren’t involved in criminal activity. KATHY ANDERSON El Paso, Texas

It would seem that Mexico depends on the illegal trade of drugs and guns to strengthen its economy. Maybe the main focus of the war on drugs need not be on Colombia but on the border between Mexico and the U.S. ALLISON LEE AVINGER North Charleston, S.C.


While Josef Joffe was technically correct to say in his essay about coffee drinking [ESSAY, Dec. 6] that “there isn’t a Starbucks in sight on Tiananmen Square,” there are some just a short walk away. In fact, there are several, where you can enjoy a latte or sip a double-tall mocha. Beijing is transforming itself into a modern metropolis with Starbucks full of Chinese and expats getting their Java jolt. When it comes to coffee bars, Beijing is no latte lightweight. CHRISTOPHER OXLEY Beijing

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