"a fish, a barrel, and a smoking gun"
for 10 October 1997. Updated every WEEKDAY.
The Gospel According to Luke


[someone yesteray suggested Chex mix instead of Trail mix ... i'd have to agree]

Mahatma Gandhi was a punk-ass

bitch. Like peace? Yearn for a

more nurturing world? Fine. A

little advice, then: Lock and

load, and let love rule.


Luke Woodham, a 16-year-old

Mississippi high school student

- described by reporters as

"chubby," and tellingly

characterized by other students

in the horror-of-teen-horrors

terms "weird" and "not popular"

- would certainly appear to

understand the transformative

gentleness of the violent act.

On 1 October, the kid with the

New Testament name preached an

Old Testament schoolyard sermon,

allegedly killing two classmates

with a rifle and wounding seven

others. The dead on campus were

both girls, one an ex-girlfriend

who had recently dumped him; the

loss, police say, was probably

what set Luke off. Luke was so

upset, following the romantic

rejection, that he (allegedly,

again) stabbed his mother to

death before heading off to

school - single-handedly

legitimizing decades of

deeply lame Freudian



"I am not insane," Luke wrote.

"I am angry. I killed because

people like me are mistreated

every day."


[what about that Chex mix that is coated in chocolate, not carob please, and tossed with powdered sugar?]

The kid has a perfect ear; in

killing children to oppose their

mistreatment, chubby little Luke

Woodham plugged straight into

the spirit of the times. Federal

government killed children at

Waco? Park an enormous

fertilizer bomb under a nursery!


anti-abuse-of-power message

sent! Jewish settlers parked on

your piece of the postage stamp?

Strap on a bomb and head for the

market! Palestinian settlers

acting like they actually

deserve a place to live? Take an

extra clip to worship service!


Curiously enough, he also seems

to have plugged straight into

the spirit of his school.

Following Luke's lone-gunman

routine, cops arrested no fewer

than six other teenagers in his

hometown, five of them

classmates at Pearl High School.

One was the 16-year-old who had

provided reporters with the "I'm

not angry" letter purportedly

penned by Luke, making you

wonder if the alleged killer

wasn't working with a ghost-

writer. Hell, everybody else is

these days - why not him? The

students picked up in the new

wave of police action were said

by police to have been plotting

to kill other Pearl High

students; a school district

lawyer said that the students

"loosely referred to themselves

as 'the group,'" a name that

makes them sound quite a bit

like some kind of Allman

Brothers cover band. Remarkably,

the police didn't say - not in

public, at least - that the

arrests were related to Luke's


murders. To which we can only

say: Go figure.


It's no accident, of course,

that the contemporary opponent

of unbalanced power turns to the

unbalanced use of power to make

his point. With the statement

made, and the bully dead, the

bully's heart beats on inside

the bullied - just as it did

when the bully was still alive.


Experts on bullying - a real

career option, apparently - note

that the bullied tend to work

awfully hard to provoke their

tormentors, meticulously pushing

all the right buttons before

complaining about their

treatment at the hands of the

person they've just provoked: "I

flipped the 'on' switch, and

somehow the machine started

running! Help!" For a chubby,

unpopular kid, the genuinely

extraordinary pain of being a

target must surely beat the

extraordinary pain of being not

very much at all, stuck in a

corner and largely ignored; rage

beats emptiness simply because

it feels like something rather

than nothing.


So the suicide bomber, the

clock-tower sniper, the gunman

on the subway: All are

powerless, mowing down the

powerful like so many slats in a

picket fence. They don't

understand the contradiction in

their acts because, for them,

there is no contradiction; the

point of the game is to make the

other team fumble the football,

drop the power, so the home team

can pick it up. A play that ends

the game leaves the players with

nothing to do but go home. Given

the addictive drama of the whole

cycle, it's hard to expect that

the bullied can ever see the

ironies that arise when they

turn the tables. (Maybe somebody

could whisper it into their

collective ear - or, failing

that, pound it into their

fucked-up heads once and for ...



[i hate the plain Chex mix and those horrible immitation mixes, like Crispix mix!]

Nations play the same game, at

home and away. Governments twist

arms to help us get over bad

habits, drop bombs to wage

peace, destroy the village in

order to save it. The most

obvious explanation for Luke

Woodham's behavior would be that

somebody snuck a big pile of

George Will's hawkish Reagan-era

Newsweek columns into his

locker, leaving an innocent

16-year-old mind with the

impression that Mutual Assured

Destruction was simply a

thoughtful policy choice.


Delightfully, the

always-good-for-a-laugh British

(who are, after all, the seminal

Canadians) have even dragged the

full weight of the State into

the battle against schoolyard

bullying, organizing a formal

central-government browbeating

effort to combat the problem of

children who give hot-feet and

wedgies to other children. Makes

you wonder what Tony Blair was

like as a prepubescent. ("Mummy!

Those beastly lads have pasted

my buttocks to my bullocks once



Back on this side of the pond,

the notion that unbalanced power

is the best solution to power

imbalances is, after much

practice, well-ingrained into

our tiny little pea brains. We

understand quite well that,

being the only superpower left,

we have an obligation to knock

the bullies of the developing

world down with a plentiful dose

of firmness.


True to our understanding of

ourselves, the America of

popular media puts down the

carrot so it can swing the stick

with both hands. In the recent

Air Force One, soldiers swarm

into a building and kill pretty

much everything that moves, then

drag the sleeping president of a

former Soviet republic away to

his punishment. Some nations

might consider the kidnapping of

their chief of state by foreign

troops - from the presidential

palace, no less - a form of

international bullying, but

remember: This Eurasian nutball

was a big ol' meanie, and his

kidnappers flew Old Glory into

battle. We're the biggest, the

strongest, the most

heavilyarmed ... so we have to

stop the powerful from exerting

their power on others. Hmmm.


[and what about those greeeen M and Ms ... ?]

A final anecdote about our

bad-ass, anti-bullying selves.

The day after Luke Woodham's

display of impotent rage, the

district attorney responsible

for seeing the teenager brought

to justice expressed

disappointment that Mississippi

law wouldn't permit him to seek

the death penalty for a weird,

unpopular, chubby 16-year-old,

who had finally had too deep a

taste of power out of balance.

It's a shame; like most

consumers of morality tales, we

prefer that the ending be

consistent with the rest of the


courtesy of Ambrose Beers

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