Tuesday, November 22, 2011

Junior High Was Never Like This

When I was in eighth grade, I wore bell-bottoms, like most boys then. If I had come to school in high heels wearing makeup and earrings, I would have been teased and probably beaten up – not just that day, but likely every day throughout the school year. But I wouldn’t have been shot in the back of the head by one of my classmates. Larry King wasn’t as fortunate to have grown up when I did.

Larry was an eighth-grader attending an Oxnard, California junior high school at a time when guns, rather than pencil cases, are de rigueur for students. Larry, 15, made no secret of the fact he was gay, openly gay, even flamboyantly so. Again, when I was in eighth grade we had strict school dress codes that forbid boys from wearing short pants (in Florida, no less!) so we would wear two sets of clothes each day: our dress clothes for school, and our casual clothes (jeans and sneakers) for after school. Society and the media placed less emphasis on sex and sexuality among adolescents back then and homosexuality was a closeted issue, so if we had gay classmates, we never knew they existed. We certainly couldn’t judge by their apparel back then. I believe schools should have liberal dress codes – not too restrictive, but short of “anything goes”. There’s a point at which fashion can become distracting in the classroom, and boys dressing in high heels wearing makeup and earrings constitute a distraction – but that should not be a capital offense.

Brandon McInerney was a 14-year-old classmate of Larry’s. He didn’t like homosexuals in general, and he didn’t like Larry in particular. Brandon did like Nazis, however. Police found Nazi-inspired drawings and artifacts at his house. I don’t like Nazis and I don’t like Neo-Nazis. As Americans, we fought a war against the Nazis, because everything they stood for was the antithesis of what America stands for and believes in. The idea of Neo-Nazis living in the United States is repugnant to me. They are un-American. If you truly believe in and support the Nazi ideology, than you should pack your bags and get the hell out of America. You don’t belong here and we don’t want you here.

Brandon came to school with a gun because we live in a society where 14-year-olds have access to guns. When I was 14, the world was a different place. We had pellet guns and BB pistols and slingshots, but not handguns that fired real bullets. None of us could get our hands on a real gun; hell, we were lucky if we could get our hands on a copy of Playboy!

Brandon calmly sat behind Larry during their computer lab in school, pulled out his gun, and fired two bullets into the back of the 15-year-old’s head. When boys teased Larry, he would tease them back by flirting with them. One student said Larry had flirted with Brandon the day before Brandon shot him. Larry died two days later. Brandon pleaded guilty yesterday to second-degree murder. I’m not a California lawyer, but the facts of the case sure sound like premeditated murder to me. But anyway, the plea means Brandon will serve 15 years in prison for murder.

Brandon was initially charged as an adult. There was no dispute during the trial that Brandon fired the fatal shots. The trial ended in a hung jury. Several jurors said Brandon should never have been tried as an adult. I disagree. He should have been tried as an adult, convicted, and sentenced to death for premeditated murder. The jurors, and many members of the public, argue a 14-year-old is too young to be put to death. I say, why not? A 14-year-old executed a 15-year-old with no compunction. Why should he be spared the same fate he dished out?

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