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).
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