(Please note this post contains spoilers regarding Nineteen Minutes. Continue reading at your own risk.)
Sometimes a catastrophic calamity brings positive change that absolutely needs to occur. Such a terrible truth rears its ugly head in Jodi Picoult’s Nineteen Minutes as a brutal school shooting occurs, planned and orchestrated by Peter Houghton, a relentlessly bullied teenager. As can be expected, before the shooting, jocks and preps plagued and bullied all other groups, but afterward everyone appears to get along, perhaps out of fear or maybe they learned a lesson. For the record, I do not view Peter’s actions as the best or even a remotely good choice, but the end result is certainly preferable to how the social structure stood before.
In a sort of roundabout way, this incident relates to terror organizations, such as Muslim extremists and the rest of the world. For decades they have been setting off car bombs and using suicide bombers to “bully” the rest of the world. Let’s not forget the crippling blow 9/11 dealt us as well. True, this belongs on a completely different scale than the tribulations Peter and others had to experience, but a striking parallelism does exist. Why did people bully Peter? They wanted him to fear them and the action made them feel superior to him. Why do extremists terrorize the rest of the world? Their terrorization produces terror, and they want the world to submit to Muslim ways and practices, thus seeing them as better than our own.
On a final note, going around and killing random extremists will not solve the problem, but only increase it. When one falls they are viewed as a martyr, and people connected to them that are not radical will take up the flag from their fallen brethren, thus becoming radical extremists and adding to the problem. Therefore, the problem cannot be solved as Peter had done, but can only be solved from within the communities in which these people reside.