In California the issue of teen bullying has taken a bizarre and albeit tragic turn: 14-yr. old student Brandon McInerney shot and killed 15-yr. old student Larry King. The shooting occurred one day after King reportedly, wearing make-up and high heels, walked back-and-forth in-front of McInerney (who was seated on a bench outside the two students' school) and hurled verbal taunts and insults at him. Other students were apparently watching and laughing at the situation. One witness, testifying at McInerney's first-degree murder trial for the death of King, stated that at the time of the taunting McInerney was seated on the bench "looking angry and upset ... I saw a lot of rage there." Apparently, there was a lot of rage there, because the next day McInerney brought a gun to school, shooting and killing King.
The attorney arguing McInerney's defense is portraying McInerney as an abused teen, who simply reached a breaking point. Several witnesses at the trial testified as to how they had first-hand knowledge of the 15-yr. old teen (he was 14 at the time that he shot King) being physically and verbally abused by his father: including being punched, fingers/thumbs bent backwards until McInerney screamed in pain, even molestation by another relative. It is entirely possible that due to the seemingly constant onslaught of abuse that McInerney was experiencing "at home," that the taunts of King pushed him past his breaking point. Many, if not most people would agree that everyone is able to handle varying amounts of stress in their respective lives, but that they all have a "breaking point" ... a point where the stress becomes so overwhelming that the individual is no longer entirely aware of his/her actions, and will often engage in very uncharacteristic behavior. Including, in some isolated incidents, someone hurts or kills another (and often times themselves). It is truly a terrible situation; the sort and level of abuse that McInerney apparently suffered. But should that be reason enough to acquit him of murdering 15-yr. old Larry King in cold blood?
Ironically, yet not-at-all surprising, there are many (including McInerney's defense attorney, apparently) who feel McInerney is a greater "victim" than the young man that he shot and killed. Comments on the news story on several web sites are highlighted by a number who decry how "it's apparently O.K. to bully someone if you're gay." Meaning, that if a person is gay it must be acceptable for them to bully other individuals. If anyone wishes to look for ways in which the differences between society's 'tolerance' and acceptance' of gays exists, this story gives us a very stark, very clear example to learn from.
Yes. It was wrong that King taunting his fellow student. The fact that he was wearing high heels and make-up is, in many respects, makes little or no difference when considering the reality that he was, apparently, bullying McInerney. And King should have been stopped. At least two school employees, one a teacher and another an administrator, viewed King's actions and did nothing. And so McInerney 'snapped', got a gun, and came to school the next day, and shot and killed his bully.
Society has begun what sometimes seems like an inexorably slow evolution in its' views towards gays and lesbians. Issues like fair and equal employment and gay marriage have gained majority-approval in many nationwide polls over the past several months. To some this gradual shift in behavior toward gays and lesbians could (and no doubt has) lead some to believe that the majority of Americans have come to "accept" gays and lesbians as "their equals." Nothing could be further from the truth.
In reality, if one were able to delve into the psyche's of many of those who participated in the various polls that have taken place, it would be learned that many of them do accept the fact that gays and lesbians exist; that their sexual orientation (like a person's race and gender) is something that they are born with, or that "comes naturally." But there is a chasm-wide separation between accepting that a group of people 'exist' and accepting that those 'others' are the equals of all others within a society. The comments about the aforementioned news story highlight exactly that point: in a tragic situation where one teenage student shot-and-killed another because of bullying, it isn't the dead teenager that many show concern for, but rather, the student that was being bullied and shot his fellow student.
Last year the news media (coming late to the party as they are often want to do) began reporting on the increasing numbers of suicides of gay teens in the U.S. And in recent years a number of states have enacted legislation that makes bullying in-school illegal. And even more school districts across the country have anti-bullying policies that discipline those students caught engaged in bullying another student. But what is being lost in the 'pity' being shown to McInerney for his being bullied is that, apparently, it is acceptable to many that the "gay kid" died. Many gay teens, facing horrendous and horrific bullying at-school and abusive treatment by parents and siblings at-home, resort to suicide; either attempting or succeeding at rates several times greater than heterosexual teens. And in the awful tragedy that occurred between King and McInerney, a gay student who may well have simply been turning the bullying back toward an individual who had been engaging in bullying himself, was shot and killed because he was acting "gay" and taunting McInerney. But again ... it was the "gay kid" who died; it was the "gay kid" (apparently the way some see it) who was "in the wrong."
Bullying is wrong; period. King should have been stopped and disciplined by school officials. Particularly in-light of the fact that school officials not only were aware that the bullying was occurring; they witnessed it first-hand! But short of being threatened with serious and potentially fatal physical harm by another, killing the 'bully' should never be seen as "acceptable." What would society say if a gay teen who was being subjected to taunts and bullying by other students decided the next day to find his/her tormentors and kill them? I can tell you: put him/her in jail! That's what would be the reaction of "society." And that should be the reaction of society in this case too. We should never allow anyone to "get away with" taking the life of another when an imminent threat of physical harm or death did not exist. And the fact that many who have commented on the news story, crying "poor little McInerney ... he was being teased", feel that he was the real "victim" in this situation, is a clear indication that gays and lesbians still, despite the many positive steps forward in equality for the LGBT community, are not thought-of as being "the same" or "equal" to society in-general.