Saturday, October 10, 2015

Charles Whitman's Horror - Redux

Charles Whitman came into my life in 1976. I was introduced to him by Kinky Friedman courtesy of a girl I was crushing on at the time.
He was sitting up there for more than an hour
Way up there on the Texas Tower
Shooting from the twenty-seventh floor, yahoo
Kinky's little ditty seemed darkly funny. After all, Kinky himself had lived through the horror Whitman unleashed on August 1, 1966 on the Forty Acres of the University of Texas from it's Tower.
Got up that morning calm and cool
He picked up his guns and walked to school
All the while he smiled so sweetly
And it blew their minds completely
Theyd never seen an Eagle Scout so cruel
Kinky's lyrics remain dark, but now less funny. The older version of my teenaged self has discovered Whitman's horror was a beginning, not an end. He was a homicidal trailblazer, not a homicidal anomaly,
The students looked up from their classes
Had to stop and rub their glasses
Whod believe he'd once been a Marine
Charles Whitman and I have reacquainted ourselves through the decades. In popular culture he is a hipper Lee Harvey Oswald. A Marine whose shooting prowess was used to motivate by Gunnery Sgt. Hartman in Stanley Kubrick's Full Metal Jacket.
Some were dying, some were weeping
Some were studying, some were sleeping
Some were shouting, Texas number one
Some were running, some were falling
Some were screaming, some were bawling
Some thought the revolution had begun
Whitman's second victim was his wife (his first was his mother), a good woman from Needville, Texas. His first kill from the Tower was a pregnant 18 year old. Next, her fiancee. The revolution had begun, not just the one Kinky meant.
There was a rumor about a tumor
Nestled at the base of his brain
He was sitting up there with his .36 Magnum
Laughing wildly as he bagged em
John Connolly, badly wounded less than 3 years before in Dallas during Oswald's reign of terror, convened his own commission to try and discover what brought Charles Whitman to The Tower. At autopsy they found a tumor, just like Kinky said.
Who are we to say the boys in?
Who are we to say the boys in?
Who are we to say the boys insane?
As I read of another shooting on the Texas Southern University campus yesterday, I thought of Charles Whitman yet again. My son is now 18 years of age. The same age as Whitman's first target from the Tower porch. He is a college freshman. Texas will permit open carry on Texas college campuses - effective on the 50th anniversary of Whitman's carnage - August 1, 2016.

Your shots are still finding their mark, Charlie.

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Lyrics by Kinky Friedman - The Ballad Of Charles Whitman (Album, Sold American, Vanguard Records (c) 1973)

Full Metal Jacket (c) 1987, Stanley Kubrick

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