SECTION NINE


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COLUMN FIFTY-EIGHT, APRIL 1, 2001
(Copyright 2001 Al Aronowitz)

CULTURAL EQUATIONS
REALLY TWISTED

So what happened when an Ontario teenager read his writing assignment aloud to his grade eleven drama class? Well, to put it mildly:

                      EVERYONE FREAKED OUT!

Students.Teachers.Parents.The Police. And, eventually, the media.

The reactions were so bizarre they sound like a script from an episode of SOUTH PARK. And it could be pretty funny if it wasn't so sad and tragic.

A quick recap:

The unnamed 15-year-old was given an assignment for his drama class---write a story about "Fear". It was a topic he knew all too well. This poor kid had been the victim of chronic bullying at school, and had once been beaten up by a dozen other boys.

He entitled his story TWISTED. It was a fictitious fantasy about a bullied student who takes revenge on his tormentors by blowing up the school. Then, as requested, he read the story to his classmates.

What happened next was REALLY TWISTED

The rumors started flying---Bobby's got a bomb! He's going to blow up the school!

It wasn't long before the cops brought in the dog squad to search the school for explosives. They also raided the boy's home, slapped him in handcuffs, charged him for uttering death threats, and threw him in jail.

His bail hearings were delayed four times, and he ended up spending over a month in incarceration, including Christmas, New Year's, and his 16th birthday.

It's the first time I've ever heard of someone doing time for doing their homework.

Since then his pissed-off 14-year-old brother has also been arrested and thrown in jail for threatening to blow up two other schools.

* * *

There is so much injustice in this story that one hardly knows where to begin asking questions and pointing fingers.

But I'll try.

Let's start with the bullies:

Why did they think they could get away with tormenting this young man? Because the DID get away with it. Time and time again. His parents made complaints to the police, but apparently nothing ever came of it, and the abuse continued.

Why didn't his teachers recognize the problems this student had and try to help him? Who knows? Perhaps it wasn't in their job description. Instead they became hysterical and pushed the proverbial panic button.

Why did the police go gestapo instead of just trying to sort things out? Because they were feeding off the frenzy that was working itself into a lather at the school, and they needed a bad guy to be held responsible. Why was this young man's bail hearings delayed four times? Because the Canadian Justice system is fucked up and out of touch with reality. Like that line in a Billy Bragg song: "This isn't a court of justice, son, this is a court of law."

(Isn't it odd that bail was finally granted a couple of days after the story broke as a national news item?)

(And while we're asking questions: why, in this age of instant information, has this story taken so long to become front page news in the mainstream media?)

* * *

There are, of course, two place names hovering above this entire train wreck of justice like a pair of ghost vultures: Littleton, Colorado and Tabor, Alberta.

There is no question that the fear of another Columbine massacre fueled all this paranoia. And yet the reaction in Ontario has sadly resulted in another form of overkill, this one on a smaller and more personal scale, but, in many ways, just as senseless.

Hell, I'm not even going to bother asking rhetorical questions about censorship, freedom of expression, human rights violations, and Thought Police. I'm too afraid it might get me into trouble with the law.

I can only hope that these two brothers get a kick-ass lawyer and successfully sue for wrongful arrest and detention. Maybe they'll write a book about their ordeal and become rich and famous.

After all, living well is the best revenge.

And, hey! Who HASN'T wanted to blow up their high school?  ##

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