Reading the story about the demon-worshiping outsiders and the deeds of schizoid murderous Kyle (“The Others,” 6/14), I cringed. But not for the usual reasons.

Echoes of the Columbine incident resound as parents scramble for answers to the “why” questions as they come up from Jason Cherkis’ rather florid and overdetailed piece—and come up, as usual, with the wrong answers. What makes kids into killers? It’s that “horrible music.” Lack of chaperones. The Internet. Sex. Being un-Christian.

But I think there are some much more realistic causes. One that came to my mind: I can see that younger people don’t have as many subcultural elders to guide them as they once did, in the ’70s and ’80s. Perhaps what is necessary to help prevent such incidents are older, saner, more worldly-wise “freakish types” who will help to explain basics of living in a world with other human beings—and do so in terms that a schizophrenic mind living in multiple realities will understand. Such as the idea that murder and mayhem are glamorous only in fiction, not in the “consensus reality” universe.

Such people are out there. Most, though, are terribly cowed into keeping silent about anything which might get them looked at askance by employers, cops—and even the federal government, in this day and age. They stay hidden, and unavailable to youth, fearing reprisal.

Nonconventional kids don’t know where to turn, and so you get a bunch of them figuring that if the (largely hypocritical) Christians are “bad,” then that must mean anything anti-Christian must be “good.” It’s the sort of logic that young, uneducated people would naturally have, and they can’t be blamed for having it. They can certainly be blamed for acting on it in ways that harm people, but the confusion is completely understandable.

They are not given alternatives. It’s either be a “good” person, meaning Christian—or at least very, very good at faking it and being completely quiet about any other beliefs one might have—or be a “bad” person, meaning anything else.

They are told that they’re evil from the time they’re old enough to understand spoken words. They’re told they’re evil if they’re Christian or not; if they’re Christian, they’re still “born in sin” until redeemed by Christ.

If they’re not Christian, they are branded as demonic before they even take up their goth/industrial music or brandish lifelike Dungeons & Dragons weapons. If they somehow can’t fathom why a religion based on a God figure who looked on as his own son was nailed to a piece of wood to pay for our sins so that we might be “washed in His blood” is any different from any other cult-worshiping acts of slaughter and ritual abuse, they are deemed demonic and unholy. (I was once called these names as a child because I had snakes as pets and didn’t play with Barbie dolls.)

So what do some of them do, once in a while? What a surprise. They act on it. They follow the script: Figuring they’re supposed to do evil things, they do them.

This grim tale should serve as a lesson, but of course it won’t. It will likely do just the opposite: cause folks to cheer as anything “faith-based” is implemented in place of youth programs and activities for teens and young adults that are currently in place, which they will claim “obviously don’t work,” pointing to stories like this.

The real answer will be to find artists, musicians, craftspeople, and other creative subculturals who did not decide to mix their realities quite so much, and have such people around as adults that confused youth can confide in.

San Francisco