To round out my reading of the Columbine massacre a bit, I wrote to Mr. Mauser in July requesting a copy of his book, which he self-published so he could have the freedom to tell his story his way. He signed a copy and shipped it to me from his home; I finished reading his 358-page story that was published in 2012 (13 years after the Columbine shootings) in about a week, it was so engaging. Tom says himself at the end of his book that he’s blunt – or at least has become so since losing his son – and I find his tone refreshing. I so appreciate his questions like, “Can we allow people to grieve without having their actions and motives questioned?” (73), though I am troubled and saddened by his need to ask. Not only was Columbine rife with controversy for years after the murders, but his gun-control advocacy has garnered him everything from hate mail to death threats. Regardless of where you stand on the gun-control debate, surely name calling (especially the father of a murder victim) and vicious treatment is not acceptable. His story, among other things, details how he handled that with aplomb and courage.
I especially respect his passion – “emotions are natural and nothing to be avoided” (283) – and willingness to engage. “After all,” he writes, “that’s how we so often get into trouble – by ignoring troubled kids” (222). He continues: “They’re kids in your community. Maybe they’re kids in your neighborhood…In the end, they’re our kids. If we fail to do something about these troubled, bullied, disaffected kids, we’re going to continue to suffer tragedy” (226). Truer words could not have been written – and coming from the heart of one who has suffered such tragedy no less; I fervently pray we listen to these words as well as his insights about our culture: “this nation is enamored with its athletes…we have elevated sports figures to hero status, heaping much praise and pay upon [them]” (299). He’s clear that Columbine was not “caused” by jocks at the school; still, his point is worth taking seriously.
Mr. Mauser and his family are Christian; I deeply appreciate what he has to say regarding faith. Related to the “Who Said Yes?” controversy: “The true test of one’s devotion [to God] is how one lives one’s life, not how one responds under duress to two disturbed murders pointing a gun at you” (77). In discussing healing and God’s love: “If one truly believes in God, why repeatedly insist on such miraculous signs as confirmation of His presence?” (168). Regarding his approach to prayer: “I saw little purpose in praying for others, believing that, instead, I should do something more directly, like giving my time or money, mot ‘merely’ praying” (208). Though he says later that his views on prayer have changed, he makes a good point: very often, we pass up taking practical action to help others in favor of prayer but I believe we are called for both. With respect to the Lord’s involvement in suffering: “Let’s not blame these tragedies on God. Too often it is we who fail to prevent these human tragedies…often this type of violence happens because we live in an impersonal, individualistic society where too few people are willing or able to intervene in troubled lives” (350). I want to quote that whole paragraph but really, you should contact Mr. Mauser through his website for Daniel (his email’s posted there) to get a (signed!) copy for yourself.
Mr. Mauser ends his heartrending and brave story on a beautiful note. “It is my belief that people who are not willing to forgive, or who seek revenge or carry lingering anger, are in essence questioning God” (355). His discussion on forgiveness is extensive, rightly demonstrating the complexities and nuances of forgiveness, not allowing false pardon to eclipse his real and merited grief. I was deeply touched and challenged in my own thinking about forgiveness by reading of his process related to forgiveness of the killers and wholeheartedly agree with him that “the world collectively bears a shred of responsibility for not reaching out and doing more to save poor, lonely, disturbed souls like [the killers]” (356). I found Mr. Mauser’s personal, vulnerable, somewhat feisty and deeply honest narrative imperative for anyone affected by or who wants a fuller picture of the Columbine massacre that so altered the lives of many forever.