Infuriated by forgiveness

The parents of Columbine killer Dylan Klebold don’t want forgiveness — because they don’t think they did anything wrong. In a conversation with NY Times columnist David Brooks, the Klebolds described the Columbine massacre as a natural disaster and blamed the “toxic culture” of the school. Not their son.

The Klebolds describe the day of the shootings as a natural disaster, as a “hurricane” or a “rain of fire.” They say they had no intimations of Dylan’s mental state . . .

. . . The most infuriating incident, Susan said, came when somebody said, “I forgive you for what you’ve done.” Susan insists, “I haven’t done anything for which I need forgiveness.”

She blames herself only for not recognizing her son’s depression.

I agree with Brooks that Dylan Klebold “was a self-initiating moral agent who made his choices and should be condemned for them.” And yet his parents seen all too eager to blame everyone but their son for his actions. Of course, they didn’t raise him to be a murderer. But they did raise him. And he was a murderer, not just a suicide.

Victims’ parents are not troubling the Klebolds with their forgiveness.

About Joanne


  1. It’s amazing how deep their denial runs. I guess it’s better than facing the truth that they played some part in their child’s murderous rampage. I saw the network special on the 5th anniversary of the massacre and many things struck me. How can your only son get a hold of that massive of an arsenal and the parents not know about it? Remember teens have no right to privacy. A parent has the right, and should use it, to look in their child’s room every now and then for signs of trouble.
    And I can’t stand this “the bullying jocks are the cause” argument either. These kids were a group of nine; I know that I didn’t have that many friends in high school. Face it, just about everybody has a rough time in high school. That is no reason to excuse yourself from parenting responsibly. A parent is there to monitor, care for, and explain to their children that life gets much better after the hard times. And one other thing, if they knew their son was having such problems at school, was depressed, and the father works at home, why didn’t they pull him out of public school and home school him?

  2. Bill Leonard says:

    Ah, here we have it again! All are victims, even the parents of one of the murderers! No one really is responsible, so I suppose all of us are, eh? It’s the fault of society, and all that?

    Like Jeremy, I fail to understand how any kid could have the weapons and ordnance the Klebold kid did without any parent knowing of it.

  3. The weapons were picked up in the school supply room?

    Sure you can’t blame the parents for pulling the trigger, but one must ask how and why the weapons were so easily came by.

    I am seriously doubting they would have killed as many people with knives.

  4. It is my understanding that they constructed bombs, as well. Had the bombs detonated according to plan, the conspirators would have killed far more people.

  5. lindenen says:

    Yes, I think I read they had bombs and stuff sitting around their bedrooms.

  6. I didn’t read Brooks story the way Joanne does. The parents did not see Dylan’s illness and that he was without hope. If that’s accurate, then Susan Klebold acknowledges her despair at not recognizing Dylan’s situation. Serious mental illness is hereditary, not the result of lax parenting.

    If any of you are parents of a teen-ager with a brain-based illness, then I’d assume you had some insight. If not, you ought to do some study rather than offer the same glib explanations the media have been offering about Trench Coats and Marilyn Manson and careless parenting.

    Point One–Bipolar and Schizophrenic teenagers who have not yet been diagnosed can be expert dissemblers. They are practiced in not letting others into their thoughts. It’s not shocking that attentive parents would miss what their child was committed to hiding.

    Point Two–These were murder/suicides. It’s pointless to try to sort one from the other. The question no one has yet offered a good explanation for is why these two suicides directed their anger at a school full of young people and not just at themselves. If ever a situation required seeing multiple factors at play, this is it.

    Point Three–Columbine High School was huge, well over 2000 students. While high schools that size are common, they are inevitably toxic for some portion of students. There are no good educational reasons for huge high schools; there are lots of social and economic and athletic reasons for large high schools.

    This situation was tragic. I’ve been to the school and had some teachers and students present at a conference I programmed in Denver several years ago. Brooks’ column opened up one important avenue to understanding what happened–learning about Klebold’s and Harris’ medical history. It will probably be years before all the factors are adequately documented.

    My point is that you can’t solve problems like this unless you can adequately state the problem. That hasn’t been done yet.

  7. “Toxic environment”, yeah whatever. Attention whores, both of the parents. I wasn’t aware anyone actually cared about their forgiveness or was burying them in it.

    If they truly believe that the “trenchcoat mafia” (which didn’t really exist), goth music, bullying, etc. are really the cause of their son’s rampage, then they are merely in denial about it and are refusing to fully examine all the factors.

    Those factors include their parenting of the boy, their failure to notice that he had weapons in his room in plain view, and what must have been a fairly conspicuous temperament of hostility and distress.

    Maybe that’s not fair. Clearly the ultimate blame lies with Dylan Klebold. But his problems were not invisible.

  8. Walter Wallis says:

    Young people often conceal actions and attitudes from their parents, teachers and parole officers. My son might well have constructed a nuclear warhead in his room under all the sound equipment and I would not have been able to tell that it was not just another rock music tool, and I am a double engineer with extensive weapons and demolition exposure. Some people just choose to go bad, just as some people choose to try to bring down the internet and some people spray paint their sign all over public facilities.
    As Sigmund once said, sometimes a cigar is just a cigar.
    If any forgiveness is needed it is for the two cowardly armed police who cut and ran when the first shots were fired at them, and for the poltroonly swat team that waited until they were on overtime and everyone had a chance to bleed to death before they took the risk for which they took extra pay.

  9. I don’t have a problem with the article. I couldn’t really infer from it that the parent’s don’t place any blame on son– but there wouldn’t be much point in dwelling on it. It’s not like they’re going to punish him or teach him the error of his ways. Looking around for what else may have contributed actually seems more productive at this point.

  10. The kid killed. The parents are faced with tough choices, but they are not dealing with them. This may be somewhat “understandable” but it is certainly not what the NY Times calls “brav[e] and honorabl[e].”

  11. John,
    I don’t understand your post. Either you are addressing a different subject than everyone else or I am reading your post wrong. Given my lack of sleep recently I am not ruling either option out. People are not saying that the parents deliberately facilitated the massacre only that it would be nice if the parents were to say that they are sorry that they did not see the warning signs. Obviously they could have done a better job. There has never been a perfect parent (don’t go theological on me) and there never will be. It just seems rather lacking to say that you are in no way responsible for the actions of your child. The parents are displaying the same lack of regard for others that their child displayed (admittedly, you did mention the genetic component). If the parents would have just either have said something like “We are terribly sorry that our son did the things he did” or if they would have kept their mouths shut then that would be fine. But they chose to totally deny any responsibility whatsoever.

    I don’t see how a failure to adequately state the problem has any relevance to the parent’s lack of regret and acknowledgement of the part they played. It is not all the fault of the parents but they are not without at least some measure of blame either.

  12. Richard Brandshaft says:

    Before the fact: Few, if any, parents believe their kid will shoot up the school. (All but one in a million, or at least one in several hundred thousand, are right.) I can’t see blaming the parents.

    After the fact: The parents can’t deal with this rationally. Big surprise. People have been overwhelmed by lesser disasters.

  13. Walter Wallis says:

    Deal with it rationally? Just what is the rational way to deal with such a situation?

  14. Mark Odell says:

    IXLNXS wrote: Sure you can’t blame the parents for pulling the trigger, but one must ask how and why the weapons were so easily came by.

    Just in case anyone needs reminding: Being as how they’re inanimate objects, you can’t blame the weapons for pulling their own triggers, either.

    Could it be that “the weapons were so easily came by” because criminals–by definition–don’t obey laws? Perhaps a more-apposite question one might ask is: when H&K began their attack, how and why weren’t weapons so easily come by for their victims?

    I am seriously doubting they would have killed as many people with knives.

    Alas, we will never know. What’s your point?

  15. The mother said she can’t forgive herself for not seeing the signs of trouble her son was in. What more responsibility can a parent take in such a situation?

    If she were a politician, then sure, she’d go public and say how very sorry she was and she would never do it again. But a parent losing a child to a sudden, violent death faces one of the deepest griefs a human can experience. What does a parent in that situation owe the general public?

    I’m more interested in getting both sets of parents comfortable enough to disclose their sons’ health records and related information, as well as good information on their version of their sons’ treatment at school and in the criminal justice system. That’s what I meant about understanding just what the problem was. Suicidal teenagers are not new; suicidal teenagers who shoot up or blow up schools are new. That’s a problem that needs figuring out, not judging.

  16. I haven’t read anything about these parents of those kids who killed at Columbine, but if any of them feel that they are not at fault, I think they have their heads screwed on backwards. They raised that kid, and were either too busy selfishly living their own lives, or just didn’t give a damn. I am sure there were serious signs, but maybe threr were none at all-of course maybe dinosaurs still roam the earth. I’m not here to judge anyone, and I fell more sad for those parents than outrage.

  17. mtothe2 says:

    I agree