In the wake of another shooting disaster, I find myself reflecting on the shooting that really changed how America saw gun violence– I’m speaking of Columbine. Massacres like these always leave people on edge, and wary of other potential culprits. And so, fearful eyes turn their wary stares to counter-culture folks once again.
It really is unfortunate that the Columbine shooters chose to wear trench coats. I mean, had they been wearing red polos, would the United States have forever seen red-polo-shirt-wearers differently? Somehow, I don’t think so. But the public was very eager to try to connect the killers with the goth and punk subcultures. The so-called moral guardians maintained that these subcultures adhered to a violent philosophy.
Well, allow me to say differently.
First, let me briefly describe my attire for the first time ever. I am wearing a simple black shirt, jeans, a spike collar, and black lace-up boots. My nails are painted pitch-black, I have several piercings on my right ear, and I have been known to sport my favorite black trench coat from time to time. My style might surprise some readers, because until now, (I assume) you have probably assumed I dress more mainstream. But let me be clear: Edgy? I prefer to think so. Omnicidal? I think not.
It’s very annoying and frustrating that people might look at someone like me and see me as a threat. When strangers bother to talk to me, I think they find me very friendly. Hell, I smile at people and hold open doors. I realize that doesn’t preclude someone from being a sociopath, but come on.
And, research shows no correlation between violent attitudes and the goth or punk subcultures. People who identify with goth culture do tend to be more likely to be depressed, but professionals even say that for these people, identifying with this culture is beneficial, as it provides these individuals with peers with similar interests and problems– a kind of support group.
Some people might argue that while the connection between certain styles of dress and violence in the public’s mind is unfortunate, the easiest thing to do would just be to stop looking this way if you want to stop being perceived as dangerous.
My answer to these people is, quite simply, why should I? I mean, I prefer to dress this way. It makes me happy. If it didn’t, I wouldn’t do it in the first place. So why should I be the one to change, when I’m not the one who is mistaken?
Some communities have made steps toward a more open mind. I remember seeing a documentary about a high school football player who intentionally ran down a goth-looking boy with his car. The football player, if I remember correctly, almost got off the hook, but was properly sentenced in the end. The community regarded the teenager’s death as a tragedy, and began educating people about the subcultures I have mentioned. The end result is that the town is now a very goth- and punk-friendly place. Now, if that doesn’t show that openmindedness is possible, then I don’t know what does.
Let’s just hope no more teenagers have to die to get the point across that we’re harmless.
I’ll close with just this: next time you see that goth-looking person out in town, try to be more openminded before you just write him off as a freak or as a threat.