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Red Lake Tragedy: Culture Kills

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  • rvsjr
    Indian Comics Irregular #123 On March 21, Jeffrey Weise shot and killed ten people on the Red Lake Indian reservation. Some thoughts on this tragedy, and our
    Message 1 of 1 , May 11, 2005
      Indian Comics Irregular #123

      On March 21, Jeffrey Weise shot and killed ten people on the Red Lake
      Indian reservation. Some thoughts on this tragedy, and our culture's
      role in causing it, from the news accounts that followed:

      With his self-professed loathing of reservation life and burdened by
      the psychopathologies of his parents, Weise on Monday joined the ranks
      of America's schoolhouse mass murderers. The 16-year-old killed nine
      people--his grandfather, his grandfather's female companion, a school
      guard, a teacher and five schoolmates--before killing himself.
      (Washington Post, 3/25/05)

      Sixth- and ninth-graders in the Red Lake schools struggle with
      thoughts of suicide and worthlessness at rates far higher than
      children statewide. They also say their lives lack purpose and they
      run away at rates greater than the Minnesota norm. (Pioneer Press,

      What will be ignored is the glaring fact that we have perpetually
      pushed the original stewards of this land into holes of abject poverty
      and neglect. We will overlook the fact that these natives at every
      turn have been uprooted from their symbiosis with Earth and have been
      forced to live like parasites, sucking their nourishment from casinos
      that are in turn fed by the lower middle-classes' dreams of relieving
      their own poverty by some favor from fortune. (Houston Chronicle,

      Weise was acutely aware of his people's Holocaust, and he explicitly
      linked his rage and his urge to massacre to America's moral hypocrisy.
      On one posting, Weise described America as "a country founded on the
      deaths of millions of Native Americans." (New York Press, Vol. 18,
      Issue 14)

      In the case of Weise, his admiration of Hitler and Nazi beliefs
      clearly weren't supported by those around him in Red Lake. But on the
      Internet, he found endorsement from people who shared his views.
      "Here was this kid who clearly couldn't have found this approval close
      to home," said Medea. (Minneapolis Star-Tribune, 3/26/05)

      Neo-Nazis have hailed him as a "hero" and claim he gave his victims'
      lives "meaning" by killing them. (Pioneer Press, 4/10/05)

      The genre is now sufficiently entrenched that any adolescent who guns
      down his classmates aims to join a specific elect. Like Red Lake's,
      the public shootings are often a cover for suicide, or for the private
      settling of scores with a parent or guardian. But a school shooting
      is reliably a bid for celebrity. As for murder-suicides like Jeff
      Weise's, even posthumous notoriety must seem enthralling to someone
      who feels sufficiently miserable and neglected. (NY Times, 3/27/05)

      [W]hen violent tragedies occur as one did in Minnesota, people seem

      They should not be surprised, however, because little in the broad
      culture in which these nightmares occur is different. We are still
      obsessed with guns....Violent video games and films are more
      normalized in the culture than ever....The Internet makes accessible
      all manner of extremist groups and ideas, providing acceptance and
      identity to loners like Wiese [sic]. We insist on teaching boys to be
      tough rather than empathetic. (Provo Daily Herald, 4/7/05)

      I don't know why Jeffrey Weise took so many lives and his own. But
      I'm certain that he felt great pain. I don't quite understand his
      affinity with the politics of Adolf Hitler, who drew from the U.S.
      Government's Indian extermination policies in developing his own. But
      it is clear that the messages and images of a pop culture, much of it
      spewing hate and obscenity, can be piped into any community or any
      home. The digital divide is not so wide any longer, and all children
      can be seduced by these influences. (Minneapolis Star-Tribune,

      For more on the Red Lake tragedy--much more--go to
      http://www.bluecorncomics.com/redlake.htm .

      Rob Schmidt
      Blue Corn Comics
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