02/18/2008 11:13 am ET Updated May 25, 2011

Death at the Beach: What Did America Learn in School Last Tuesday?

The end of the winter break ushered in another school semester of frightening harassment for thousands of tormented children across the United States. Among those kids was 15-year-old Lawrence King. The young man who had been bullied year after year had finally self-identified as gay. He hoped with that bold stroke the delinquents at school would allow him some of his stolen childhood peace. The anxiety and stress Lawrence experienced would have been unbearable for most, but he had adopted the thick skin a young gay man must develop to survive the bullying threats that push thousands of other young gay Americans to suicide each year.

Lawrence was a survivor. He lived his final days at Casa Pacifica, a shelter for abused children. In his most painful moments, he found comfort in Pacifica's therapy dog, a giant Newfoundland named Archie. Lawrence could whisper anything to Archie, confident he'd get a slobbery lick and a wag of the giant black tail in return. At Casa Pacifica Lawrence found love and acceptance and the strength to bloom.

Optimistic Lawrence knew once he was out of school he would excel. Nothing he could imagine in his future could ever be as challenging -- or as hellish --as his youth. Like so many ostracized and persecuted children, he swore that when he was finally an adult, he would reach for the moon to show 'em all that he had always really been the better man. To survive the playground his resolve needed to be stronger than the roughest bully's threats, assaults and anger. Lawrence King escaped into rationale when the schoolyard fell into its fanatical, fundamentalist hate. Finally last Tuesday in first period English class at E.O. Green Junior High School in the Los Angeles suburb of Oxnard, an oppressor's loathing took the upper hand.

Brandon McInerney raised his arm and shot Lawrence King directly in the back of his head -- not because he had a grudge with the victim, but because Lawrence King was gay. Later, McInerney's attorney, Brian Vogel, said, "Both Brandon and the family are terribly sad to learn (Lawrence King) is brain-dead." He went on to say that the killer and his family were hurting.

The bullying was chronic at E.O. Junior High. It was never dealt with directly. Jeff Dannenberg, the school superintendent, said the school's staff was aware that King had butted heads with bullying students, including the killer. The superintendent said, "They had been doing a lot of counseling and a lot of work with (King) to help him deal with some of his concerns and personal issues." The recognition that other students had problems with their hate for King is lost in his statement. Eighth-grader Michael Sweeney summed up the bigotry perfectly in his statement: "(King) would come to school in high-heeled boots, makeup, jewelry and painted nails -- the whole thing. That was freaking the guys out."

With each new invention of torture or death comes a new way to murder the innocent: burning at the stake, hangings, the gas chamber, stabbings, beatings, lynching, torture, inescapable mental abuse, and now point-blank classroom gunfire. Like the Nazis gassing the Jews, a mob lynching a black man, or the early pioneers butchering the Native Americans, Brandon will argue he wasn't killing a person -- he was simply doing away with another faggot.

Kids learn this hatred from the top down. George W. Bush has blood on his hands. For seven years he has spouted rhetoric and mantras across America that are vile, terrorizing, and ridiculous. He's vetoed bills, threatened the court, and spewed vitriolic immoral garbage against homosexuals. In his tense-faced proclamation for a "constitutional amendment protecting marriage," President Bush crashed the marriages of thousands in California and bashed the hope of millions of strong American families looking for hope, joy, and legal recognition. The president repeatedly states that he defends the "sanctity of marriage between a man and a woman" -- a euphemistic slur against gay people and their right to live life in equality with the rest of America.

Fifteen-year-old Brandon McInerney has absorbed and internalized the slandering tongue of the president for half his life; it's no wonder he pulled the trigger -- he might think about naming President Bush and Pat Robertson as co-conspirators. Robertson on gays: "they don't care about how much they destroy. They don't care about destroying family, they don't care about destroying a church, they don't care about destroying what's important to society" -- dangerous words from an insane man. Robertson feigns talking to god as he "heals" physical ailments through the television, all the while encouraging his flock of the frightened to send him tax-free dollars by the truckload. On Tuesday, a young impressionable soldier of this fetid talk was so cruel, cold, and callous he shot an independent, brave gay classmate directly through the skull.
The United States has stalled on the Matthew Shepard Act that would make Brandon's hate a federal crime. In the decade since Shepard's Wyoming lynching, our nation has failed to enact the legislation that would make violence targeted against homosexuals illegal. The "hate crimes initiative" would make brutality motivated by a victim's gender, sexual orientation, sexual identity, or disability a federally punishable act. President Bush has said he will veto the bill if it ever crosses his desk. The president's intelligence vacuum has pulled down America. The President has dragged America backward into the devolution of our country by his prejudice and this national sanctioned hate.

Opposition to expanded hate crimes legislation comes from right-wing opponents who say the law would limit a preacher's ability to speak from the pulpit. Representative Louie Gohmert (R-TX) ignored the wall between church and state when he made this constitution-crashing statement: "This new legislation when taken in conjunction with existing law would drive a dagger into the heart of religious teaching on sexual misconduct by the religious teachers of any faith." To a future civilization more advanced than ours, today's rapturous religious bellowing will be as laughably outmoded as Helios in his chariot pulling the sun across the sky.

1997's Ma Vie en Rose is an intimate journey into seven-year-old Ludovic's gender-bending childhood. Living life as much as a girl as he possibly can, Ludo encounters adults who would rather he disappear than deal with another color in humanity's rainbow. This French and Belgian film shows us frightened elements of society encouraging the conformity that is painfully impossible for Ludo.

When the nice suburban neighbors meet the boy who dresses in girl's clothes and plays with dolls, the hateful sideward glances and societal pressure force Ludovic's parents to strongly discourage their son to be exactly the child they brought into the world.

Young Ludo can't quite grasp what the fuss is all about. It is simple to him. There was an error when god was handing out chromosomes -- he got a Y instead of 2 X chromosomes. He's a girlboy, and when he grows up he'll be female. Its dicey ground for director Alain Berliner, but he masterfully handles the mix of the parental love and revulsion. We are emotionally engaged, enriched, and guided through our own uncomfortable moments throughout the entire film. Ludovic's fantasy world juxtaposition with the community make us wonder just who we would be if we weren't all so manipulated by forces intrinsic to society. For Ludivic he is just another color in the rainbow. Telling him to stop his behavior and get a life is an oxymoron; this is his life.

For Lawrence King, last Tuesday classmate Brandon McInerney heard the hate and extinguished a brave, beautiful beacon. Society must make Brandon pay for his loathing torturous spirit. He didn't just commit a brutal murder -- he killed a dream. Schools, teachers, and parents must finally learn from Lawrence's lost life. As for Brandon McInerney his remaining days must be spent in a torturous prison. His release should finally only come wrapped in his death.