A few days ago, Sam Reynolds, a 16-year-old sophomore at Arlington High School, stood up for a bully victim and was fatally shot by the bully, whose crime was captured on security video. Reynolds was unarmed.

Bullies don’t take being challenged very well. And they usually try to make their challengers pay, so when Arlington Police Chief Will Johnson tweeted, “This senseless act of gun violence has no place in society,” I almost laughed.

Excepting the friends and family who actually knew Reynolds, all the “thoughts and prayers” and the “mourning the loss of”s are arguably disingenuous. Folks who stand up to bullies are being beaten and murdered every day, but we –– as a nation –– really don’t care, because it’s usually our bullies who are doing the bullying.


One of our bullies in Saudi Arabia, for example, is the crown prince. Mohammad bin Salman recently had some of his men torture and dismember Washington Post journalist and American critic Jamal Khashoggi in the Saudi Consulate in Istanbul — and we turned a blind eye to sell the Saudis billions of dollars’ worth of bombs so they can be bigger bullies. And for the last few years, we’ve been in bed with unabashed bully Vladimir Putin, even though it’s no secret he imprisons and/or kills folks who stand up to him, in one case even poisoning expatriate detractor Alexander Litvinenko with radionuclide polonium-210 — condemning him to a horrible death by radiation poisoning that garnered worldwide headlines.

It’s not always as direct as first-degree murder, of course. Sometimes it’s simply state-sanctioned oppression. State governments around the nation have been overlooking the destructive tendencies of the biggest bully of all, the fossil fuel industry, for years. And this past May, Texas state senators passed legislation banning the protest of oil and gas pipelines, even if they run through your own backyard. The mere intent to protest or obstruct Big Oil’s thuggish tactics could cost any concerned citizen willing to stand up to them $4,000 and a year behind bars.

Hell, unrepentant ruffian Rush Limbaugh recently received the Medal of Freedom, even though he has more blood on his hands than the last 10 major American mass murderers combined, because there’s little doubt that the first button on most of their car radios was tuned to whatever broadcast affiliate aired the bully’s pulpit.

Fort Worthian E.R. Bills is the author of Texas Obscurities: Stories of the Peculiar, Exceptional and Nefarious (History Press, 2013), The 1910 Slocum Massacre: An Act of Genocide in East Texas (History Press, 2014), and The San Marcos 10: An Antiwar Protest in Texas (History Press, 2019).

The Weekly welcomes submissions of all political persuasions. Please email Editor Anthony Mariani at


  1. This poor kid lost his life doing something honorable and yet you use your platform to spew left wing propaganda. Shame. I’m very much in the middle of the political spectrum but I’m sure this child’s grieving parents would sure appreciate reading this and realizing the intent of this article wasn’t to honor the hero this boy was.

  2. Thanks “Mr. Bile” for using the tragic death of an apparently good kid to libel Mr. Limbaugh–a man with advanced cancer, who has raised millions for worthwhile causes (lymphoma leukemia foundation, Tunnel to Towers Foundation, etc), and author of history books for children as a “mass murderer” with”blood on his hands”. You are a pathetic individual with a deep seeded disrespect for society. Do the public a favor and get some anger management and other psychological treatment.

  3. Wow, the above 4 comments really demonstrate the poignantly put point the author was trying to make. We love to laud heroes who stand up to violence but are scared to daylights when it comes dealing with the underlying structural causes that so many people die for. All 4 commentators should be ashamed for their ignorance and sheer lack of political acumen. It says one thing for the US to be lead by a cowardly bully. It says another for us to be defending bullies in the name of granting victims ‘peace’

      • The author’s point, that we mourn the victims of violence while ignoring or downplaying the larger bullies and systems that perpetrate such violence is a brave and necessary argument to make. Far too often we miss the forest for the trees when it comes to this. No specious motivations in there whatsoever. The cases the author presents to back up his case may not speak to you, but it may be a case of the problem being your own intellectual blinders.

  4. PS: And in no way should anything Rush Limbaugh ever ‘wrote’ be called history. And the world will be a better place without him and his brand of hate-filled bile.

    • The fact is that Mr. Limbaugh his staff and his wife have raised millions for charity and has written kind and witty books about early American history for children, which are apolitical and not agenda driven. What the heck have you ever done for your fellow man, besides spew hatred towards a talk show host with whom you disagree.

      • The man has made a career of spewing hatred and bile. It doesn’t matter the money the money he’s raised, if he’s spent his entire adult life mouthing racist, homophobic, misogynist, and just vile nonsense that hasn’t contributed anything positive to society at all. He’s a loud, cowardly bully and nothing more.

        As for his history books being kind, witty, and apolitical? You should probably take a historiography course to figure out everything that is wrong with his ‘history’. He’s a writer of ethno-nationalist propaganda, plain and simple.

  5. I believe Mr. Bills said some things that needed to be said. As for the comments left by others, they don’t seem representative of actual FW Weekly readers. Dissident voices are needed in free society. Once they disappear, the society is no longer free.

  6. It’s ridiculous to erupt in vile blather over a talk show host. it’s intellectually and morally dishonest to use the tragic death of a child as your shield. You have been free to call him up and disagree with him for the last 30 years. If you really believe all your inflammatory rhetoric, my question is where have you been? My impression is by beating up on an imaginary figment of your imagination turned feral, you have become the bully. If you want to call somebody names like “mass murderer” and declare that he has “blood on his hands” you better come to the discussion with some actual facts.

  7. It is not disingenuous to mourn the loss of a good kid. What is disingenuous is to use that kid’s death as a pretext to spew hatred towards every thing from the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia to the Texas Legislature.

    Plain disgusting.

    • The larger point is that it’s disingenuous to mourn the loss of a good kid and stick our heads in the sand when it comes to seeing the bigger picture behind what happened and refusing to take any action that may change the system. Thoughts and prayers, thoughts and prayers are fine, but when this is happening to the degree that it is in our current society, just thoughts and prayers don’t cut it.

      The critique of MBS and the more sinister aspects of his activities as de facto head of government are certainly valid. The reforms MBS has pushed in Saudi Arabia have come at the cost of silencing any and all opposition as well as a bloody war in Yemen. The critique of the Texas Legislature’s draconian penalties against pipeline protests is also valid. Concerns about long term environmental impacts and community agency come at the expense of the wallets of corporate overlords shareholder boards who don’t give a damn and actively work with legislators to enrich their own bottom line. We shouldn’t just duck our heads, cover our eyes, stick our fingers in our ears and repeat the mantra, “It’s the cost of doing business!” We should hold the larger powers that be accountable.

      • Mr. Bills figuratively barged into this poor kid’s funeral to lecture us on the evils of Saudi Arabia and state government.

        The death of a 16-year old boy should be mourned, not exploited.

          • Now that’s just a false equivalency. The Westboro Baptist Church’s protests of military funerals are a larger part of their larger, just plain hateful, racist, misogynistic anti-LGBT, anti-Semitic, and anti-Islamic ‘beliefs’.

            No one’s saying to not mourn the death of a 16-year old boy. What is being said is that to just blindly offer ‘thoughts and prayers’ for every single time someone suffers such violence is at best, myopic, and at worst, hypocritical. If we just mourn and not have a hard conversation about how to try and prevent such senseless acts of violence, then we’re just sticking our heads in the sand. You may argue that Mr. Bills should have steered the conversation that way, that’s fine. But, his larger points about MBS and Saudi Arabia, Rush, and laws surrounding pipeline protests are no less valid. We live in a world that has very little will to confront these larger abuses of power, these larger systems of violence. If we just stand by and let incidents like what befell that young man keep happening, and if all we have to offer is just more ‘thoughts and prayers’, then our ‘thoughts and prayers’ will run hallow and we’ll have forfeited notions of sympathy we have left as a society.

            In Chinese philosophic discourse, there’s a phrase, ‘liangzhi’, knowledge of what is good and right. One cannot know the good and right and not act upon it. To know the good and right is to act upon those. Instead of bickering about Mr. Bill’s tactics, let’s have a discussion how we can honor this boy’s memory and the memories of countless others who suffered similar fates and do something to change the status quo and maybe we can then have a discussion on the political will and imagination to change the system.

  8. How about this as a novel approach: instead of blaming everything on the “system” whatever the heck that means. Parents should raise their kids to respect others and not to shoot each other.