This morning I read two separate articles about the Sandy Hook Elementary School shooter that painted a completely different picture of who he was as a person. A story in the New York Times described him as a weirdo who doesn’t move his hands when he walks, doesn’t show emotion, and carried a strange black briefcase while making quick escapes out of class. The other article, from NBC News, has interviews of his friends who pointed out that he was smart, into technology, and had parents who pushed him to succeed. How did these stories end up being so different from each other?
The anti-bullying movement has a long way to go when the media continues to publish these bullshit stories that try to pick out what makes someone different and package him up as someone that’s not a part of the rest of society. It's completely irresponsible and I don’t think it’s going to help us figure out how to prevent more of these tragedies from happening in the future.
I have been the weird and awkward person to varying degrees throughout my life. When I was a kid, I had a lot of friends and was very happy and bubbly, but I was different from other boys, got along better with girls and ended up being bullied a lot because of it. When I got to middle school, I put up a wall and became very withdrawn. I spoke to only a handful of people I trusted by the time I was in high school, which made me all the more unsociably, awkward, and weird.
But I did not become a mass killer. In fact, even though I was an outcast in high school, I never had any proclivities towards violence, no impulses that I was withholding, and I never thought about hurting anyone, not even the bullies that I would say made me the way I had become. Today I am still shy, but I embrace my weirdness (most of the time) and I make efforts to spend time with other people. I have a great job with co-workers that I get long with, a great boyfriend who I am engaged to, great friends (albeit a small number... I still prefer to keep my circle small), and overall I am a productive member of society.
What makes these people different is that they became murderers. That’s what we need to focus on. There are people who are even weirder than I have ever been who are not dangerous. And there are kids and young adults who are strange, but they need more people to treat them with compassion and respect, and extend an olive branch, rather than having their idiosyncrasies blown up in the news so clumsily every time something bad happens.