Somewhere in America

By Hilary Holladay

Somewhere in America, as I write this, you sit hunched over a laptop in your family’s basement planning a rampage. You are male and young—eighteen, nineteen, maybe twenty. You are not black or gay or transgendered. You are not poor. You are not dumb. No one would call you disadvantaged.

But you are angry and hurting and lonely. The school counselor had an array of labels for you. But what do labels mean? You are you: sharp elbows and protruding Adam’s apple, a self-inflicted scar on your ankle, not quite a tattoo. You are fond of beer, allergic to peanuts. The skin on your wrists is pale and delicate. Your success on certain video games is legendary—or would be, if anyone knew. You were the one who drove the family dog to the vet’s when she had to be put down. You were told, in middle school, that you have a nice singing voice. Your racing thoughts wake you up at night, but there is no one you can tell. No one you would dare to tell.

It has been a very long time since you set foot inside a church. It has been a long time, or seems that way, since a girl returned your call. You have said to hell with girls. You have stood up the shrink your mother made you go see. You never did take your meds.

You feel, if you could put words to it, you have been left behind. No Child Left Behind? Yet here you are, drinking warm beer and googling gun shops and gun shows. Here you are, browsing weapons and ammunition you can get online without ever showing your face. You are so far behind that if you turned around and faced the opposite direction, you would be near the head of the line—the line of unholy despair.

You decide, therefore, to make the leap from silence in the basement to violence in the world. With this new resolve, you turn on your computer’s camera and stare at your bloodshot eyes, your unlined face. You play around, grinning and grimacing. You remember a picture from art history class—“The Scream,” they called it—and mimic it so well that you have to laugh.

That laugh was a mistake. It sounded too much like crying. You slap your laptop shut and pace around. It is one or two in the morning or worse yet, the middle of the afternoon. You are the only one home.

If not for the anger, you could almost stand the days. If not for the hurting, you could almost stand the nights. But it is the loneliness you can no longer imagine getting away from, not in this lifetime anyway. It lives inside the spaces between your heartbeats. The loneliness is too much.

You have read about Eric and Dylan, about Seung-Hui, about Jared, and now this guy Adam. You don’t admire them. You don’t even think about them. You think about your parents and your brothers and your old girlfriend. But not that much, not as much as the shrink convinced himself you did. Mainly you think about how much you hurt, and all of a sudden, you’re doing “The Scream” for a laptop camera, and it’s really too bad the world didn’t end on December 21.

If you go through with your plan—that jumbled mess of thoughts that you call a plan—you will be written up, reviled, perhaps pitied. Your name will be on every newscaster’s lips. There will be a Wikipedia page on you. Someone, somewhere, might actually pray for your soul. You wish them luck with that.

Thinking of how it will all be, you shrug into your jacket, emerge from the basement. Outside, cold air blows against your face. You walk hard and fast. At the store, you slap down money for cigarettes. They cost so damn much these days—cancer sticks, your dad used to call them.

The clerk’s fingers graze yours as she hands over your change. That makes you stop and look at her. You wish the faint smile on her face didn’t matter so much. Then you turn on your heel and leave without a word of thanks. You want this girl to think you’re in a hurry, and maybe you are.

You are somewhere in America as I write this, and I pray for your soul.

Hilary Holladay is editor and publisher of Jefferson Park Press and a visiting professor of English at James Madison University.

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and somewhere else in america is some dumbass parent trying to negotiate with a 4 year old about the reason he can't gouge out the dogs eyes because he didn't get his crapabox for Christmas instead of teaching him right from wrong and that despite what Obama wants them to think life aint fair...

all of these "brilliant" KILLERs have parents in common that indulged them and allowed them to think that because they are good at math or video games that "brilliance" gave them a free pass in life and life owed them whatever their spoiled little hearts desired.

There are tens of thousands of these timebombs out there. While I am not sure how to protect ourselves against the current crop of crasizies, if parents would take more interest in their childs character instead of their egos and self esteem issues on the soccr field we wouldn't have to worry about it.

adam killed six year olds because he was jealous of them, people point to his brother and say "it couldn't have been the parents because they raised them the same" ... well that is the point They should NOT have raised them the same.. they are different and one needed more attention and most likely discipline. Hugely was no different... parents who only want to see the good and ignore the bad do so at their own and others peril.

Sometimes someone who seems to suffer from low "self esteem" because people don't treat them well are actually jerks who don't deserve to be treated well and need to make changes. their real problem is that they have an inflated sense of self esteem and people are treating them exactly right.

Rodney Dangerfield made a career explaining the concept.

This was brilliant

Misguided calls for more discipline are a 1950s solution for a 21st century problem. Might as well try reading an IBM punch card with the dock connector of an iPad. It simply won't work.

These people are sick. We need to get better at identifying people who are so emotionally unstable that they represent a danger to themselves and to others. We need real treatment options. Our society can't afford to wait until after someone's "gone off" before we get involved, and asking untrained parents to deal with these issues on their own... well, why don't we ask them to cure cancer while they're at it. /s

It is not about more discipline is about not being cuckolded by your own spoiled brat of a child.

Too many parents fawn over thier children trying to make them think they are so damn special when they are just like every other kid on the block. it gives the kids a false sense of entitlment and they become quickly disappointed when they have to compete in the real world of 5th grade and they find put that there are 15 "brilliant" kids in the room besides them.

There was EASIER access to guns in the 50s and this crap didn't happen. I am not against gun control but this goes much deeper than guns.. this goes to false entitlment and unreasonable expectations. go to youtube and search for teenage fights and just look at what 40 years of coddling kids has done. It is not about spanking or violence it is about control. Children need to be controlled until they have LEARNED to have self control which a trip through any grocery store shows a s a society we have failed miserably.

We had another person shoved in front of a subway train.... should we outlaw trains or gloves? or should we execute the two people that did the crimes so a third person thinks twice before he or she considers that as an option.

There are all kinds of mental disorders but under any level of scrutiny we can see that these beasts are made not born and if they are made we need to look for common threads.
upbringing , opulence and parental helicioptering all play a factor.

Whether you use an imac a calculatior, pen and pencil or an abucus 2 plus 2 still equals 4.

Just what we need, someone trying to dramatize the mindset of the next mass murderer, as if the author, or anyone else, can know exactly what goes on inside a madman's head. None of us will ever understand what makes a person like this do what they do, what their motivations and aspirations are. Remember, by definition, they do not think like normal, don't develop relationships in the normal way, don't perceive what you and I perceive as reality.

The media, and this writer, need to stop trying to sensationalize the actions of these extremely ill people. It is in very poor taste to try to capitalize off of this tragedy.

It took about 3 sentences before it became clear that some middle aged women was writing this. Completely missed adolescent teen male ansgt. May have ticked off all the little check marks from a profile study but none the less it rang hollow.

As too Ponce. I think that we currently produce far too many self entitled narcissistic youth. The people who post selfies of their hair in the mirror to facebook is astounding. Mix in a lot of unaddressed testosterone and isolate= boom. When the little ones dont listen, give them a warning, perhaps another chance, go quickly to time out and if this does not work, a good swift whack on the butt. A painful whack. Teach them that painful consequences do go hand in hand with thinking the world is for your personal happiness.

And the writer of this is part of the problem. So much attempted empathy for a kid that needed someone to toss his video games in the trash and tell him to stop feeling sorry for himself and get a job, get some excersize and look people in the eyes when shaking their hands firmly. The stuff a Dad used to do, back in the day, when these kids did not happen. The sympathy stuff above is listed in a dictionary, right after syphilis and before s--t.

I don't see the value in the point of this essay or any way the writer could possibly have any way to relate or put herself in the mind of the person or culture of who and what she's writing about.

This writer, and many,many like her, want everyone with an eye twitch evaluated for their mental stability. This includes your children. When this starts to happen, the kids will be marked for life by bureaucrats as a possible "crazy" person. God save us from these do gooders. Arrest the parent(s) (if there are even two) and analyze them. American lifestyles, particularly of females, have basically caused this problem by regarding children like the prized BMW.

We need less praying and more doing. Maybe if we got rid of judgmental, original sin religion and replaced it with authentic love and compassion we might get somewhere.

Right on Eric!

Religion like alcohol should be used in moderation... but even as you blame religion for many of the worlds ills those that have not studied religions and their impacts do not realize the positive impact that the tenents of most religions have had on improving civilization.

You may not like being "judged" but i would imagine you would not be so quick to condemn "judgment" if someone raped you wife daughter or mother.

The United states was the melting pot for many religions and made this a pretty good place to live.

There are nut job relgious people who need to be kept in check just as there a-hole athiests who can never disprove god but want to force their disbelief on others (that makes it a religion folks)

let christians have their trees, jews have their Torah and muslims mecca. the atheists can scream out "oh nothing , oh nothing" when they are having sex and believe that somehow "nothing" invented sex. If you choose to not believe in intelligent design that is your right, but I have seen too many beautiful sets of vodkanockers to believe they just "occuured"

I'm with you Ponce. I am totally convinced that the universe didn't just occuur. God made it. Now that we have solved that problem, let's move on to the next one. Who made God?

Another subject. Hillary made some observations about mass murderers. She didn't insult your parents. What about replacing some of that vitriol with an intelligent counter argument.

The very fact that the human mind cannot really fathom what god came before the god they believe is enough proof for me that while we can continue to search odds are we will never get to the bottom of it. that does not mean that it is WRONG to pick a starting place for god that is within the comprehension of the human mind. If I rescue an abandoned puppt from a swollen stream that dog will most likley see me as its "god" and no one can tell him otherwise. There is nothing wrong with the dog finding happiness and solace in that. if I treat him well, take care of his needs and accept his loyalty till death do us part then he lived and died with a god that met his needs for happiness. Humans have done the same thing with saviors and proffits. we have millions of pages of laws when the most basic tenents of all religions cover the bases. It is when we religion is not used in mederation that it becomes corrupt and causes problems... so keep it in check... but leave people who find happiness in their beliefa alone so long as they dont hurt you. (not "effect" you) A christmas tree in the public square idoes no measurable harm and it if does affect you that much then maybe the problems are your sensibilites.

as for hillarys words and my vitroil, I stand by my words... The parents in America have abandoned their children to nannies schools and playstation. they try and negotiate with an immature mind which then makes that child believe they have an equal say when they don't . if you look around at people who have wonderful adult relationships wth their children the common thread is almost always that the parent was reasonably strict with the child and commanded respect. If you look at the folks whos kids never visit, help them out or shove them in a nursing home you wil oftem hear them lament "but i gave them EVERYTHING"

I am not saying a "time out" should be that the kid wakes up from an uppercut to the jaw, but it certainly shouldn't be being sent to the toom with a laptop and an iphone.

When a parent tells their kid they are special that little jerk believes it and becomes an intolerable little brat that needs his butt handed to him in the schoolyard. Once he gets into the real world bosses don't care how "brilliant" you are if you need adderall just to remember to punch in.

That kid in Newtown killed 20 innocent people because he was mad at his mother... to let her off the hook for this is simply ignoring the truth... She screwed up... she payed with her life and that is sad, but to pretend this kid was just a defect and that gun control is the answer is beyond ridiculous. Deal with some gun laws fine... but unless we deal with the bad parenting that is at an epidemic rate in america there wll not be enough money or doctors to pay to fix the problems these bad parents are creating.

Ask any employer how hard it is to find a 20 something that while they are not homicidal, doesn't spend all day whining about how" unfair" things are . Our indulgence of our children is coming home to roost. It will not get better until parents step up to the plate regain control.

where is the data that shows they were smokers?