One of our better seminars this year was about the 9/11 memorial, and in the course of reading this and that about it, I came across this idea: That memorials to horrific events should not be erected too soon, that even bright-line tragedies should be viewed and understood from a distance of some years before we try to memorialize them. That’s not to say al-Qaeda will improve with age, only that time tells, and it may be telling us something different about 9/11 in a few years.
Of course, this is Manhattan real estate we’re talking about here — in other words, a long mellowing isn’t possible — but it’s an interesting idea to consider. The one clear criticism of the Oklahoma City memorial I’ve read is its lack of context, that still-grieving families simply refused to allow a memorial that gave any significant presence to the event’s perpetrator, and so you can visit it without learning a thing about Tim McVeigh, the anti-government subculture of the mid-’90s, and what it led to. Those who don’t remember the past, etc.
And so it goes with Columbine. As the anniversary journalism passes through, I’m amazed at the persistence of the bullying myth, which I thought was discredited years ago. Evidently, though, lots of inattentive Americans still believe the teenagers behind that massacre did what they did because they’d been picked on.