Let’s Not Memorialize Murderers

By Bill Maher

A fourth victim of that Washington state high school shooting has died, bringing the death toll now to four – five if you count the shooter. But I don’t count the shooter. He was the perpetrator, not one of the victims.  

Why do we do that? When the media is tallying the death toll, why do they lump the shooter in with his victims? We don’t do that with other crimes. When a priest molests three altar boys, we don’t say, “There were four victims, counting Father Tim.”

There’s something going on here where we’ve become so accustomed to gun violence – and especially school shootings – that we just kind of accept it as inevitable or God’s will and say it’s a tragedy for everybody, including the shooter. He’s a victim too.

Describing the makeshift memorial scene outside the school just days after this shooting, AP’s Gene Johnson and Ted Warren wrote, “Among the balloons and flowers tied to the chain-link fence outside Marysville-Pilchuck High School are these: a white wrestling shoe; a youth football team photo, with one player encased in a red-marker heart; and a candle covered with a plastic cup bearing the name ‘Jaylen.’ They are all tributes to Jaylen Fryberg, the popular 15-year-old freshman who texted five friends to invite them to lunch Friday and then gunned them down at a table in the school's cafeteria.” Really? The shooter gets a teddy bear too?

Also at the memorial site: a hand-drawn sign that says, “Rest in peace, my beautiful angels” with a picture of the victims alongside the shooter. Another sign featuring pictures of the shooter and the victims says, “Stand as one.” That’s how powerful the high school pecking order is. Because this kid wasn’t some outcast weirdo, but a popular, homecoming-prince football player, we’re not mad – it was a bad day for him too.

The school district superintendent says, “I think right now is not a time to blame and to ostracize. I think now is a time to come together, and that is a very organic memorial where people are putting what they feel from their hearts. And that’s appropriate.” After all, we don’t want to stigmatize this ambush murderer and turn him into some sort of bad guy.