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That’s the word everybody throws around when something unspeakably tragic happens, like a 14-year-old boy shooting a classmate in the head in the middle of a crowded classroom because that classmate wore makeup and high heels to school.
The thing is, it’s not senseless. In fact, it makes a lot of sense given the culture we live in: a culture where hyper-masculinity is prized, femininity frowned upon, homosexuality reviled, violence celebrated and guns easily accessible.
“Puberty is a time when boys learn about the young men they will become,” John Ireland wrote on The Advocate’s Web site Feb. 14. “Junior high is a crucible of adult forces.”
Squeeze the macho, anti-gay, pro-gun elements of society into the mind of a kid going through puberty and plop him into a school system that considers bullying a rite of passage and, at best, ignores the existence of gay teens, and you have ready-made violence, just heat and serve.
I take no joy in making Brandon McInerney, a kid barely 14-years-old, Creep this week, but it’s hard to think of anything creepier than McInerney gunning down 15-year-old Lawrence King in their junior high school classroom in Oxnard, California.
King, who was taken off life support and had his organs harvested on, of all days, Valentine’s Day, was shot in the head by McInerney in front of two-dozen other students on Feb. 12. McInerney then fled, according to the LA Times, and was quickly apprehended.
McInerney is now being held on $770,000 bail and will likely be tried as an adult for murder. He could end up spending the rest of his life in prison.
I take no comfort in this. McInerney is a child. Trying him as an adult does not change the fact that this happened, and not only that, but also that this happens. In the United States. In 2008. It will do nothing to stop this kind of thing from happening again.
“Right now we don’t know exactly how anti-gay hate expressed itself in the murder of Lawrence King,” said Matt Foreman, executive director of the National Gay and Lesbian Task Force. “What we do know is that he was harassed on a daily basis because of his sexual orientation and gender expression. We do know that adults at his junior high school did not stop it and that kind of tolerance of anti-gay bigotry is pervasive in our nation’s schools. Our hearts go out to Lawrence’s family — and to all young lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender kids who are — right now, right this minute — being bullied and beaten in school while adults look the other way.”
As of press time, no clear motive has been reported though Oxnard police spokesman David Keith told the LA Times, “It looked like it was personal between the two of them.”
But even without a motive, by calling King’s murder senseless we help bolster the arguments of those who say schools don’t need anti-bullying regulations, who say that schools shouldn’t teach about homosexuality, who say schools shouldn’t include sexual orientation and gender identity in their non-discrimination clauses, who say that gay and transgender kids don’t exist.
By calling it senseless we say, “Hey, that’s not my problem.” Except it is.