It was the biggest story in Britain today. The story of the bullied teenager who savagely murdered a disabled boy.
Nothing can excuse what Michael Hamer did. He was clearly a very disturbed 14-year-old. But because he was so young and disturbed, I found the 12-year sentence far too harsh.
The boy he killed might have been a Little Angel as the tabloids were calling him today. And his death was a horrible tragedy. But his killer was a victim as well.
"......he was bullied at primary and secondary school, suffering verbal abuse, violence, extortion and social exclusion and had been threatened with the words: "You're a dead man walking," after he told the school of the bullying.
.....Mr Steer said Michael had begun to eat less and "started to stab the wall" at his home, and had difficulty sleeping...
.... Michael had made a sexual advance to Joe "who responded by referring to him as gay and he threatened to tell others about what he had tried to do. "Tragically, he responded in the way he did. At the time of the act of violence, he says he could see the faces of the bullies in Joe..."
Joe wasn't one of the bullies. But if he had told the others that Michael was gay. He would have hurt him a lot. Imagine what the real bullies would have done to him then. That's what happens when you make gay another word for frightening and bad.
I also can't help but wonder if a 14-year-old straight boy had come on to an 11-year-old girl...would they have called it a clumsy pass instead of a "sexual advance?" He might have been hauled into the principal's office. But I doubt he would have had to worry about being humiliated or beaten up.
Or be driven into a killing frenzy in a desperate attempt to keep his secret from being revealed. As if he was hiding something horrible. Instead of just being who he was. As if he was frightening instead of just frightened.
But that's what can happen in a society poisoned by anti-gay hate. That's what can happen when you don't acknowledge gay love. Or treat it as something ugly. Or think it's just about sex, as so many heterosexuals do. When it's much much more than that. Normal and natural. And just as good and beautiful as their love.
You'd think as humans we could all agree on that. So we could concentrate on making schools safer for all children. But thanks to homophobic jackasses like Ted Morton, we can't.
"The bill also includes specific clauses that would force teachers to send out “parental warnings” before discussing gay issues, and allow civil marriage commissioners to deny their public services to gays..."
We have to spend our time trying to prevent these Burro Bigot Confederate Dunces from stigmatizing gay kids even more than they already are.
When we should be helping these vulnerable children to spread their wings and come out. As this gay teenager in the UK explains, in this humble but moving 3-minute video. That can still be so hard....
I guess the message is parents teach your children that bullying is bad. Make sure your child isn't suffering in silence. Keep your eyes open for a gay child trying to spread his or her wings. Help them to fly free and unafraid. Love them for who they are.
And don't hesitate to ask for help.
Maybe nothing would have stopped Michael Hamer from murdering little Joe Geeling. But as long as we don't come to terms with the fact that bigotry and bullying can kill. In many different ways.
There will be a lot of children in our schools. Suffering in silence. Too afraid to be themselves. Or ask for help.
Just waiting to explode....