I had wanted to write a post about the “crisis actors” conspiracy a few weeks back, following the Parkland shooting, but it didn’t come together quick enough to stay relevant and interesting.
The memetic entropy of some political arguments is pretty astounding.
One circular debate that is persevering, however, is that the students of that school are partly to blame for not being more accepting and trying to help Nicholas Cruz. Their response has been consistent and clear: “You didn’t know this kid.”
There’s an interesting dynamic to this that is very illuminating. Partly, it’s the tone of empathy that these people have for Cruz. As if to say, I know what it’s like to be ostracised at school — sometimes I felt like shooting up these arseholes too.
Evidently, Cruz isn’t a one off and he’s just one instance of a certain kind of fragile masculinity that has snapped. I’m sure we all know kids like that — the kind of kids that only need an excuse.
The difference is, those who were mindlessly ostracised because kids are definitely cruel aren’t the ones who shoot up their schools.
I’ve got my own sob stories of being bullied for lacking a certain level of masculinity or generally being a sexually repressed teenager. Most men do because men are weird. Those experiences are not comparable to the kids who were ostracised out of fear.
I saw a tweet on the timeline, quoting an essay by a Parkland student, who hit the nail on the head:
“The implication that Cruz’s mental health issues could have been solved if only he had been loved more by his fellow students is both a gross misunderstanding of how these diseases work and a dangerous suggestion that puts children on the front line.” https://t.co/0Ytjxt8MAU
— Shawn Hils (@ShawnHils) March 27, 2018
But it also brought back a memory from my primary school days, of a “friendship” from that time which has continued to haunt me.
Being in the UK, school violence on this scale isn’t a consideration, but I still knew kids like Cruz.
I remember one is particular who was a really difficult kid. We had had a fraught friendship. My Mum worked as a social worker specialising in foster children and other troubled kids and so young people who had had unstable starts in life were often at our house and I often seemed to end up on play dates with the difficult kids after their parents would chat to mine in the playground. Most were the sweetest kids just looking for a friend. On a handful of occasions, they would be straight up sadists.
This one kid in particular was a constant presence. Ostracised by everyone else, I repeatedly tried to befriend him but instead he only made me his target, verbally bullying for the most part. Towards the end of primary school, he’d started to become more physically violent.
The first instance I remember was when he grabbed my then “girlfriend” (quotes because we were 9, so…) and, like some sort of movie villain, held her like a human shield with a sharpened pencil to her jugular as if to provoke me somehow when the teacher had left the room. All I remember was being terrified. I’d never seen someone threaten violence that explicitly in real life before. She was just pissed and I remember she slapped him after wriggling free but she didn’t see the look in his eyes that I had seen. I felt like I went into shock.
His violence escalated but was short-lived. I later heard that, one day, whilst I was off school sick, he’d jumped on the back of a friend of mine during lunch break. He’d simply been shrugged off but landed in such a way that he broke his femur. He spent 6 months in a leg brace after that, humiliated, and didn’t attack anyone again.
This kid was never provoked. He simply wanted to show off his strength somehow and any humiliation he suffered was brought on by his own failed attempts to torment others.
He made it to Year 8 at secondary school before being removed from mainstream education. He still wasn’t violent anymore. Rumours went around that he had terrible insomnia and was going to be home educated.
We never saw him again.
I still thought about him often, however, as a sort of boogeyman, a terror of my childhood.
When I was in my early 20s, I saw him in the local paper. He’d been arrested for the rape of a local boy and the grooming of another, both whilst working as a local football coach. He’d lured them in with football-related trading cards. One of the boys text his parents what had happened, too ashamed and scared to tell them to their faces. They then notified the police who found 1000s of child abuse images downloaded from the Internet on his computer.
I followed the case really closely. Mortified that he’d finally found victims who were helpless before him. Still the same age group, only now he was older. He got sentenced to 7 years or something, I think, and life on the Sex Offenders Register. He should be out soon by that count…
This haunts me (beyond the obvious reasons) because this is a boy that I felt, in a perverse sort of way, very close to. I felt like I knew him really well, in that way you get to know bullies in trying to protect yourself and predict their actions. I used to watch him like a hawk, never wanting to be caught off guard by a tantrum. I never thought things would go this far though.
I remember after it had happened I felt that same sense of shock, as if I’d known “evil” and had dodged a proverbial bullet.
I can’t help but feel like these are the sorts of people I keep seeing parts of my Twitter feed defending.
Disturbed kids aren’t for kids to deal with. They’re always their victims, even before they murder them.