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Crookston Times - Crookston, MN
  • Cool parents, a fear of loss, and the Little Falls shootings

  • Shooter wasn't in his right mind at the time; how could he have been?
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  • When you're young, even if you have the coolest parents on the planet, you probably insist at every possible opportunity that you're never going to grow up to be like your parents.
        That mentality is pretty much summed up in a scene from the 1984 John Hughes film, "The Breakfast Club," when each high school student serving a Saturday of detention in the school library tells a tragic tale about how awful his or her parents are. When "the princess," played by Molly Ringwald, insists that she'll never grow up to be like her parents, the "basket case," played by Ally Sheedy, counters that growing up and becoming the same as your parents is unavoidable. "When you grow up," she says, "your heart dies."
        Ouch. Sorry about that, cool moms and dads everywhere. Apparently, you can't win.
        Take my mom and dad, for instance. I'd like to think I've followed in their footsteps in the "cool" area, and I also married a woman who's turned out to be a cool mom, too. Sure, we crack the whip when need be, and someday our sons will thank us for our attempts to keep them motivated to do well, interested in things worth being interested in, and human beings who care enough about things to be reasonably good people.
        When I was a kid, I was exposed to lots of rock music, and I don't recall ever being told to cover my eyes or ears or leave the room during certain scenes of a particular movie or TV show. I recall feeling sheepish now and then during a certain scene here and there, usually if there was some nudity involved, or bad language. The climactic scene from the 1980 space flick "Alien" is forever engrained in my memory not so much because the Ripley character, played by Sigourney Weaver, blasts the mutant creature into outer space, but because before she does so, she strips down to a short tank tank top and ultra-skimpy underwear. It was quite a moment for a 10 year old boy still wondering just what to make of the whole opposite sex phenomenon.
        Today, of course, with all the swearing, sex, nudity and overall raunchiness in films, TV shows, music and music videos, that memorable scene from "Alien" is practically “Dora the Explorer” by comparison.
        To say kids today are being exposed to more scintillating content via pop culture than kids 30 or so years ago is like saying an Atari 2600 video game system is only slightly less sophisticated than a Playstation 3.
        It got me thinking of the Mel Gibson-directed film, "Apocalypto" the other day. A period piece from the last days of the Mayan culture, it tells a desperate tale. There's no swearing and the only brief nudity a viewer might see is more of the tribal, National Geographic variety.
    Page 2 of 3 -     Our two sons have seen the film, but that's not to say their parents, even though their kids are bombarded with what essentially amounts to mountains of smut on a daily basis, didn't debate whether letting them see it was a wise decision.
        That's because at the heart of the Apocalypto plot is loss...losing everything you have, from your loved ones to your possessions. But you don't just lose it, it's ripped away from you, stolen in the most barbaric fashion possible. There's blood, lots of blood, and fire, and wails of agony and screams conveying petrified fear. There's a lot of death. Basically, one tribe attacks another tribe in surprise fashion and whomever doesn't get killed in the initial battle is taken hostage to later be sold into slavery, or beheaded as part of a sacrificial ritual.
        We wondered how it would impact our sons. Our youngest at the time was just emerging from a phase that for a time had him seemingly beginning most every conversation with us by asking something like, "What if robbers break into our house?" For whatever reason, he apparently wasn't feeling safe in his own home.
        I'd be as lighthearted as possible in forming an answer to his questions – you know, downplay his fear and try to ease his mind – but what dad in the back of his mind doesn't every once in a while formulate at least a vague plan of what he'd do if someone decided to, for whatever reason, break into his home while his family was there, with bad intentions? How fast could I get to my hunting rifle and load it? Or should I keep a baseball bat under the bed? Would I tell my family to bolt out the back door?
        I returned in my mind to those so-called plans recently, in the wake of the shooting deaths on Thanksgiving of those two teens in Little Falls, Minnesota, two teens who had been breaking into houses in search of money, prescription pills and anything else they could get their hands on.
        What would I have done, I wondered, had my home been violated, yet again, by misguided teenage intruders? Well, I may have hurt them with whatever makeshift weapon I could get my hands on in rapid fashion, especially if I thought my wife or kids were in danger. Or, maybe I would have sprinted to my rifle and held them at bay while contacting the police.
        But I’m not mentally imbalanced, so I can probably rule out not only shooting them each once with a shotgun, but then following up with especially barbaric killing shots.
        This Little Falls homeowner? He ain’t all there, people. Or, at least, the events that led up to the killings in his home resulted in him not being all there, temporarily, at that particular, tragic moment in time.
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