Driving home from a lecture on blogging, (I blog far too much and at all the wrong times), I heard an interview with Marta Cunningham, the director of “Valentine Road” a documentary about the 2008 shooting of Lawrence King, an openly gay junior high school boy in Oxnard, California.
While Cunningham doesn’t demonize Brandon McInerney, the 14-year-old who killed Lawrence during his first period class (the murdered boy had asked McInerney two days before to be his valentine), the director is quite critical of how the school handled things. For example, in the wake of the shooting, the faculty might have handled the traumatized middle schoolers a bit more delicately, instead of herding them into a spare classroom for a screening of “Jaws.”
I tried to inhabit the bodies of those kids who’d just seen their classmate executed in front of them. The queasy unreality I felt after being car-jacked during the L.A. riots was the closest I could get.
I hardly ever think of “Jaws” as a violent movie, but If I’d just witnessed the murder, how might I process a story that begins with a naked woman wrenched beneath the surface of a dark ocean by something unseen? Would I cheer for Chief Brody perched on the sinking mast of the Orca, firing his rifle at the relentless beast and uttering his triumphant “Smile, you son of a bitch,” before he blows the shark to bits?
It’s beyond horrible that school shootings, workplace shootings, movie theater shootings, and mall shootings have become routine events in this country.
John Lennon would have been 73 years old today if he’d not been shot and killed in 1980.
A few months after his death, I stood at a podium. I was 14 years old, burning with passion and grief at my hero’s murder. I debated another eighth-grader on the need for gun control. I don’t remember the particulars of the debate, which is now just a flash of feeling, more dream than memory. I only know that I won.