Revisiting the Appeal of Steampunk in Light of Today's Tragic Shooting in Connecticut
This most recent school shooting, one of the worst in history, has devastated our country. That such an act can be performed not by a begrudged child, but by one or more adults, is nearly unthinkable.
And yet the idea of school shootings is far from new.
In fact, the Victorian era gave birth to the very idea of a school shooting. The first incident on record, in New York City on June 8, 1867, tells of a nameless 13-year-old boy who brought a pistol to school (without the knowledge of his parents) and shot a classmate. That classmate was only injured, but it was the first of many more to come.
However, it's not until the 1927 school bombing which killed 45 that we begin to see the sort of multiple-casualty spree-killings that often occur today. Before that, attacks were largely one-on-one grudges, such as when Will Guess shot his little sister's teacher, Irene Fann, in 1887 for whipping her at school.
Those days appear to be gone. Now the mentality is "take as many with me as I can", which may or may not be indicative of a larger sickness in our society. The fact that today's tragedy is only one of many such incidents means that we, as a society, have had to come to terms with it. Is it any wonder, then, that people find the past in many ways more appealing?
Let me make something clear: this is not a question of technology or better guns. A revolver with six bullets is easily capable of shooting six people, and revolvers became popular between 1850 and 1860, which predates all known school shootings. So we're not talking about a technological difference, but an ideological difference between then and now. Something has changed in the way we view the world, and many people find that idea thoroughly distasteful.
Steampunk is in many ways like a History buffet; people will pick and choose what they like and leave the rest—for example, you don't see many Steampunks dressing up as characters with incurable syphilis—but this is one of the things that many people take from the buffet, the sense of respect for other people that seems to now be gone from modern society.
I've said before that Steampunk is primarily about the present rather than the past, and I don't mean to imply in this article that Steampunks go to the past in order to escape the present. To the contrary, I believe that they bring the past to the present in order to correct some of the ills of society, at least insofar as they are able. Steampunk is a reaction to those things that are wrong with our society, but it doesn't fight them by restricting gun laws, or by petitioning for metal detectors at schools.
It fights them by bringing back a sense of wonder to the world, of respect and civility. It shows people that there's more to life than just being born and dying, and that's something that we need more of. Not just from Steampunk, either, but from the world at large.
But in light of all that, Is it really any wonder that people see the appeal of Steampunk?