There is a strain of psychic illness prevalent in certain social strata of the Denver area of the Colorado Front Range. It is a sickness that has spread tendrils throughout the area like a cancer. It has been here for a long time, well before the Columbine disaster.
The latest manifestation, the shooting at the midnight Batman showing in the Aurora movie theater, is just the latest pimple to burst. There are others like Eric Harris, Dylan Klebold and now James Holmes around who have just as distorted of thinking or as black of hearts. They just haven’t gotten up the nerve or the guts to act out their fantasies or else they are taking them out in small ways the way a disturbed child will torture animals. I have seen it often in both Denver and even more so in Boulder just to the north.
There are many kids from affluent families who, in the form of mental sickness special to that area, feel that they have the birthright to do anything they want any way that they want. I have seen the kids at night, both townies and those from other areas visiting, roam the University Hill at night looking for their perverse kicks using the cover of darkness for their exploits. They are aware that the Boulder police are more lenient and unable to deal with the huge packs of kids running wild there. Many of them also know that their daddies are powerful enough to cost the cops their jobs or worse if junior gets publicly into trouble. (Anyone remember the timidity they had checking into the Jon Benet Ramsey case?)
Life in Denver metro looks outwardly clean, straight laced and well off, and in Boulder ranges into the uber cool and hip, but there is a rot inherent at many levels beneath the surface. Denver, especially, can be a cold town, only emotional and interested only when it comes to money. The ‘its all about me’ culture is well entrenched; in Boulder it is a lifestyle.
In Boulder I have seen kids whose egos and base satisfactions are their only motivating stimulus and some of those motivations are pretty dark. The town is known for suppressing its true crime statistics — they have to keep up their image as being a wholesome, enlightened city to keep the yuppies coming. As the Ramsey case showed, there are other things bubbling below the surface. At night I have seen kids running wild, damaging property, being rude, starting fights doing whatever their Id impels them to.
My own major experience and awakening was coming home one night and finding a drunk kid fresh from a nearby frat party trying to climb in my 80 year old landlord’s garden to drink his six pack. When I asked him not to do that, he goes “Who the hell are you to stop me?” We get to wrestling around, I get him in a head lock, he breaks free and leaves, and I think that is the end of it. I go into my basement apartment, grab something, and leave.
As I am headed up the block I see him and five of his buddies come back and break into my place to get me. I can’t believe it. I get my neighbor to call the cops, while I go in yelling that the police are coming, to stop them before they go upstairs and get my elderly landlord and his wife. They leave, but not before a further short altercation. Later that night they return to break a window and damage the garage door. All over a six pack of beer. And that attitude is prevalent in Boulder and Denver. It is ‘Me-ism’ carried out to a sick degree.
The next day, I go out and buy my first gun. If I had been in that apartment when they attacked they would have put me in the hospital or killed me.
I was working with a crew in Boulder the day of the Columbine shootings. The co-workers were a real mixed bunch, different races and backgrounds from redneck conservative to hippie. A lot of the workers were ex felons and jailbirds. I asked one of the young managers, a short punkish brute who seemed to have no sense of morality, but relished his power over the other workers, if he had heard about the shootings. He stepped back a bit, looked at me with astonishment in his eyes and said, “Oh man, that was so cool.” He is not the only one like that.
There are many others among the kid culture of the biggest and flashiest areas of Denver. Drugs, of course, play a big part of it. If you ever want to turn someone into the most self involved, thieving, dishonest, money grubbing, violent person possible, get them hooked on drugs. They are the best destroyers of mind, self respect, and innocence there is. And there are animals able to continue to pass themselves off as normal kids, whose whole drives in their lives are based on the distortions and animalistic cravings that drugs and their loosely reined lifestyles have put into their psyches. This sickness has roots that are spread underground where you cannot see them.
After the Columbine shootings a reporter went to the pedestrian zone of downtown Denver and talked to the kids who normally hung out there. He told them he wanted to buy a gun. Within a few minutes someone was able to get him one.
Some go to movies like Batman, Sin City, Clockwork Orange, and the various horror movies for a thrill, entertainment and escape. Some go with the wish to see such things manifest in real life.
There are ways to overcome these negativities and fears in both ourselves and for those who are entangled in them. A faith in Something good that is bigger than ourselves, experiencing nature, quiet moments of repose and reflection, a love for people, pets, and things, places, ideas outside ourselves. Something that removes our attention from ourselves and places it on what there is that can uplift us.
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