Proper teaching could change hearts, save lives

“Hatred ever kills, love never dies. Such is the vast difference between the two. What is obtained by love is retained for all time. What is obtained by hatred proves a burden in reality for it increases hatred.”

– Mohandas K. Gandhi

Two days before Valentine’s Day, Lawrence King was shot in the head.

The day after Valentine’s Day he was taken off life support and died.

He was 15 years old. An eighth-grader at E.O. Green School in Oxnard, Calif.

He was comfortable, at an early age, being himself, which included being gay.

He had lots of friends. There were also some who developed a great disdain for him because he was different.

“You’ve got to be taught to hate and fear, you’ve got to be taught from year to year;

It’s got to be drummed in your dear little ear; you’ve got to be carefully taught.”

Brandon McInerney had been noticed bullying Lawrence on occasion. Brandon was a classmate. He’s 14.

And on February 12, shortly after the bells had summoned students to school, Brandon walked into a classroom, pulled out a gun and fired a shot into Lawrence’s head.

Some say he’ll be tried as an adult. That could mean he’ll spend the next half century in prison.

Some say he’s the second victim in this tragedy – a victim of homophobia and hatred.

I guess I’d have to agree.

“You’ve got to be taught to be afraid of people whose eyes are oddly made,

And people whose skin is a different shade, You’ve got to be carefully taught.”

Grieving classmates and teachers have spoken with all manner of media folks about Lawrence.

Here’s what I’ve learned about him from those who cared about him:

He was sweet and artistic.

He loved to sing.

He had a flair for fashion.

He was a shy young man with a “sweet, tender soul.”

For some reason, he’d been living in a residential facility for abused and neglected children. No one seems to know why.

He had a hard time understanding why some folks hated him.

Some of those folks hurled insults and wet paper towels at him in the boy’s restroom. One of them decided words and wet wads of paper weren’t hurtful enough.

Classmates also had kind words for Brandon:

He was a good kid, a straight-A student, loved athletics, was a product of a troubled home environment.

Somewhere in the first 14 years of life, Brandon McInerney learned to hate that which he did not understand. Not so, the majority of his classmates, who learned to embrace diversity.

“You’ve got to be taught

before it’s too late, before you are six or seven or eight,

To hate all the people

your relatives hate, you’ve got

to be carefully taught.”

Contact Leslie Criss at leslie.criss@djournal .com or 678-1584.

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