Thursday, March 31, 2011

Smell, Not See

This day was no different than most other workdays. He watched the ships, went out on the boat and towed those who were stranded back to port. Hell, he even ferried a few of his friends across the channel to Bassin's Beach, a small island. The beauty of this party spot was that if the police decided to come investigate, they would be seen with plenty of time to escape before he would transport them over. He could remember the days when he too would have been over there, drinking the day away in the sun, smoking pot and passing the time in this tiny seaside town. Now he was the boatman, the harbormaster. Those days were gone, but when he gazed over at the party from the window of the tiny one room office, he could see himself in the crowd. Shotgunning a beer, jumping the bonfire, eating a freshly cooked burger.

Now his Bassin's Beach was his cellar. Empties filled a large trashcan in the corner, the benchpress was gathering dust, coolers and beach chairs, an old lawnmower and yard tools surrounded the work bench. The oriental rug that had at one time been in the house underneath the fine dining table, used only on holidays was stained and moldy. The garbage cans smelled strongly, it was Friday after all. He would have to go to the Dump tomorrow.

He took a bong rip and opened another Coor's light. Something smelled off, even with the scent of marijuana and garbage in the air, this was a new unfamiliar odor. He checked the rat traps, but they were empty. The little bastards had got the peanut butter again. He smiled as he recalled taking one down with the little B.B. gun he’d recovered from the boutique at the Dump years ago. But that smell offended his nose and in his less than sober state he became a detective. Looking for clues, he began to move some of the clutter out of the way. The lawnmower and garbage cans were placed outside, and the smell of the cannabis was fading. Now he could follow his nose. The old cellar was never finished when the house had been renovated, so there was a sizeable gap in the foundation he could fit into. What he found in what he had always assumed to be an empty space was something he would never expect.

A large Nazi flag hung from the ceiling, above a shrine. Candles surrounded an open box. The scent was stronger now. The only other people who used the cellar were his younger brother and his father, and he knew the old man was too fat to fit in the space he managed to squeeze through. A knife adorned with a swastika on the hilt lay beside the box, but what lay in the box was the real horror.

A human ear. There was a rotting human ear, severed from some poor soul's skull inside the box. His stomach lurched and he swallowed back the vomit that rushed into his mouth. What the fuck was Timmy involved in?! He didn't have a close relationship with his younger brother, but he never expected his brother'
s interest in World War Two was indicative of anything serious. They both loved playing videogames set in that time period. Suddenly he remembered a comment Tim had made offhand during one such occasion.

"Mark, I wish just once they made a game where you could play as the Germans. Imagine how many copies it would sell! Plus, it would be a totally different game. Defending the beaches of Normandy, preventing prison breaks and shit like that. Wouldn't that be cool?"

It hadn't seemed that odd at the time, but now he was beginning to understand that Timothy was not the younger brother he remembered beating up when they were younger. He would make him cry, then tickle him when Mom and Dad came to see what was going on so that Tim’s laughter would assure them everything was fine.

He stared at the ear for he didn'
t know how long. He couldn't bring himself to close the box, despite the smell. That was when he heard the cellar door creak, and his eyes opened wide in surprise. Dad usually worked late, and the only time Mom ever came down here was to tell him it "reeked of pot." He held his breath, and closed his eyes when he heard Timmy's voice call out for him.

Wednesday, February 9, 2011

Haven't been sleeping well. Been making progress in certain key areas, but overall feeling unfulfilled.

Tomorrow is a new day and I intend to make the most of it.

I could really use some sort of boost though. Some good feeling to hang on to or look forward to in order to help me power through the bullshit.

I've made mistakes recently and need to try to remedy them. If I can't all I can do is move forward but I have to try.

I miss writing.

Saturday, December 25, 2010

Merry Christmas.

It's a time for all things. Extreme happiness, nostalgia, sadness, hope, despair, but it's just another day. We decide how to spend it. Feel not shitty on this day, rejoice. You're breathing.

You're loved. You're blessed.

Thursday, November 11, 2010

The best I have been in years. Not where I want to be but on the right track. I've been slacking, time to cut that out and perform.

Sunday, October 17, 2010

Strange night, a solid mix of the bitter and sweet elements of life. The weekend has been a letdown because of a combination of poor decision-making and circumstance.

We can only operate in the situations we find ourselves thrown into. That is life.

I am hopeful that tomorrow and the following days will bring more positives and fewer negatives, but it's a reluctant hopefulness. Guarded, to shield myself from further injury

Tuesday, September 7, 2010

Good classes, decent student. Great professors, I must profess. I'm not doing everything I should be but enough that I can still pick myself up by my own bootstraps and get myself into a distinct pattern. Routines aren't my strong suit but once you make positive habits continuing them is relatively easy with a little conviction and some sight into how easy said habits will make the future for you.

Today I will play some soccer, call the doctor, set up an appointment and do all my homework before class tomorrow. I've been participating almost too much in some classes, but if nobody else will raise their hand I might as well get some points. This year presents itself as a distinct chapter in my life, for the next is a gigantic ? Even if the good friends I have don't all leave, I'll be without my social circle that was established almost instantly when I moved into the dorms.

I'm getting ahead of myself. Forget tomorrow, today matters the most. I'm ready for my next class in an hour, then I'll get ready for soccer and have something to eat before taking advantage of 2x Tuesday at dominos.

Overall, I'm sort of happy with what's going on in my life right now, I'm definitely not ecstatic but I'm not too down about it either. Spent a great weekend with a good friend who came to visit with two of his buddies, did some late night/early morning thinking and made a few conscious decisions about changes I want to make.

It's a new month, a new school year, and time for some new life behaviors to adopt. I pray I can stick to them.

Wednesday, August 25, 2010

Research paper on School Violence

This is the research paper I wrote for Mr. Bouchard's US History Class. It's on School Violence. I am extremely proud of this paper.

Fag. Loser. Bitch. The echoes of these words are present every day in the halls of schools. Verbal attacks are commonplace in the lives of our youth. Although it does not come to blows in most cases, the physical and emotional damage of the words we use scars just the same. Band-Aid doesn’t have a product for bruised egos, and teachers can’t see the mangled psyches that walk through the corridors. Violence in school has always been a problem, and myriad approaches have been used to tackle the issue. Acts of violence in American high schools like the 1999 slayings at Columbine in Littleton, Colorado have changed the daily lives of teenagers.

Columbine is a name that America will never forget. A scar on the brain of every teen that saw the news reports, still fresh in our memories. The media capitalizes on tragedy, and the school shooting in Littleton, Colorado had every major TV station providing coverage. Columbine High School lost 12 students and a teacher to gunmen Eric Harris and Dylan Klebold before they committed suicide.

The fascination America has with violence is no secret, with shows like COPS and videogames like Grand Theft Auto on televisions in every living room. When one’s culture becomes fixated on acts of violence, who can blame kids for turning to culturally accepted means for solving their problems? A 1999 national survey said that “7% of students carried a weapon to school in the past month, 8% were threatened or injured with a weapon on school property in the past year, 14% fought on school property, and 5% missed a day in the past month because they felt unsafe” (

Too often teasing and bullying are accepted as a social norm in our schools. When subjected to repeated and continuous torment, kids resort to violence. Sometimes the damage is done to themselves. In And Words Can Hurt Forever, James Garbarino and Ellen deLara describe violence directed at oneself: “In the 1998-1999 school year 2,700 kids between the ages of ten and nineteen took their own lives…Every year, one in thirteen high school students makes some sort of suicide attempt” (83). It is unclear why some teens victimize themselves and others turn their violence toward others. In today’s society, killing is acceptable. Kids see crimes on T.V., and some of them go to work committing those crimes and fixing the flaws. However, if ramifications are shown the media can stop violent acts (V, p.7). When a show like CSI investigates a crime, it doesn’t glorify the act and it carries a message: break the law; get caught and pay the consequences. Unfortunately, too many times the message is missing and the lesson is lost. The Columbine shooters Harris and Klebold had their own lesson to teach. On April 20th, 1999, they went into school with guns.

In the aftermath of the Columbine massacre, the boys’ crime was pored over by investigators. Discrepancies in reports led to different versions of the story getting aired and mass confusion about the truth. Revealing the truth is difficult when both the suspects are dead, but there have been some answers to the hysteria surrounding the killings. For instance, the boys had a hit list, but they did not kill anyone on it (Cullen “Inside”). They also made video-tapes prior to their attack on the school. They talked about how they would become famous, and which director would create the film of their story, how their hatred was non-specific, in addition to expressing some remorse to their parents and loved ones. Harris and Klebold talked about the abuse they suffered at Columbine High School, and how they planned on killing everyone in it (Cullen “Goodbye”). According to a classmate, they “got it worse than anything there” (Garbarino and deLara 81). Their hate didn’t have boundaries. The difficulty in working to prevent such intense anger that has no particular direction goes without saying. How does one remedy a problem with such an all-inclusive goal (Cullen “Inside”)? Dave Cullen quotes Lead Investigator Kate Battan in a news article titled Inside the Columbine High Investigation: "Everybody wants a quick answer, they want an easy answer so that they can sleep at night and know this is not going to happen tomorrow at their school. And there is no such thing in this case. There's not an easy answer. I've been working on this nonstop daily since April 20th and I can't tell you why it happened" (“Inside”).

In Violence in Our Schools: Halls of Hope, Halls of Fear, Tamra Orr states “Not a single study proves violent media has any role in real-life violence… [playing violent games] calms them down, relieves anxieties” (p.101) It’s true that games can be an outlet for aggression, and the majority of American teens who play games do not start shooting their classmates. Despite the facts, some do. Some school shooters have had hours of practice, honing their skills either on arcade games or home systems. Does listening to certain music or playing certain games make a student more prone to violence? There is no end-all answer in this instance, because everything depends on the individual. Some youths will be affected perversely, others not at all.

The subject of school violence is surrounded by myths. For example, all offenders are alike, child abuse causes violence, trying juveniles as adults decreases crime, and there is one cause and one solution (Orr, 10). Furthermore, the beliefs that schools are safe, kids don’t tell, bullying will always be present, kids have to deal with the problems on their own, and a prison approach makes schools safer have no merit. These myths are characterized by a laissez-faire attitude. Society doesn’t know how to deal with the issues, so it ignores them. There is no easy solution to solving school violence and a do-nothing approach or the ideals of “rugged individualism” don’t work, as they didn’t in the aftermath of the Great Depression. People are preoccupied with giving kids orders instead of letting teens voice their needs. Someone needs to listen to them and show them what to do (Orr, 100).

Bullying and teasing in school are the violence that catalyzes disasters like Columbine. Victims adopt a defeatist mentality, assuming they have to live with the taunting of classmates. Most teens assume nothing can be done and their adults are left in the dark. Many parents never find out about their child’s depression, self-endangering behavior, or suicidal thoughts (Garbarino and deLara 16-19). Some students report they feel safe at school because they trust their friends or they carry a weapon. Others feel the faculty is not looked to as a source of safety (Garbarino and deLara 41). Students fear “different” kids who stand out, and are typified as “shooters”. The fear causes pupils to ostracize peers on hasty judgment alone (Garbarino and deLara 55). The resulting alienation forms a dangerous recipe, a festering concoction of hate. Too many American high schools contain teens plagued by loneliness.

Social rejection is like an emotional terminal illness. Human beings by nature need acceptance to conjure some sense of validity (Garbarino and deLara 5). Also on page five, a prisoner serving a life sentence echoes the attention-craving sentiment: “I’d rather be wanted for murder than not be wanted at all” (Garbarino and deLara). Our country’s youth yearn to fit in and not be subject to ridicule. The pecking order in our schools targets the smaller, less powerful kids. Shameless slander and bullying are rampant in student life.

So why don’t students put an end to the hurt? Alas, the core of being in school is reputation. Few students will dare to enter a situation that could cause them embarrassment; why take that risk? The social norm is not to act when one witnesses the violent words and behavior in school. The isolation caused by social neglect often brings pairs together, and they develop strange and violent ways of thinking (Garbarino and deLara 6-7). In Understanding Sociology, the authors talk about the strong ties of a two-person group, or dyad:

In a dyad both members must participate or the group ceases to exist. This puts pressure on the members of a dyad to keep the interaction going if they want the group to survive….This threat of withdrawal by one member makes dyads more prone to tension than triads are….However, a dyad does not have to deal with the problem of intruders or spectators. Neither of the pair needs to perform for the benefit of a third party. (Calhoun et al. 183-184)

The potential for disaster is elevated to much greater heights in a two-person group than if a third member were present. Eric Harris and Dylan Klebold are prime examples of this fact. It is extremely questionable whether one of these boys would have acted alone, and impossible to discern the answer. In contrast, some significant acts of school violence are committed by one individual. While experts debate the why, the what remains: students are killing each other.

In response to violence, schools have tried the institution of metal detectors, zero tolerance policies, and profiling. A timeline of violent school-related incidents from 1974-2002 shows evidence of crimes in 18 U.S. states and multiple occurrences in others. The location of the crime is irrelevant, violence with school ties takes place regardless of age, ethnic background, etc(Orr 13-17). By releasing a profile for a potential school shooter, Orr argues that personal freedoms are limited. A certain manner of dress, style of speech or behavior should not label a child as dangerous. Warning signs shouldn’t have faculties jumping to conclusions (126-127). On page 128 Orr writes, “Profiling is a fine technique for FBI manhunts; it is misplaced in American schools (128). All-encompassing Zero-Tolerance policies are one of those things that seemed like a good idea at the time, but they have no beneficial qualities. When students are expelled for bringing possession of a nail file, pocketknife, or rubber band-something’s wrong. The Zero-Tolerance Policy is detrimental to school because they do not consider circumstance (Orr 148). Finally, the frivolity of metal detectors in schools is baffling. Students file through these machines daily, and what difference does it make? Why are tax dollars being spent on such a foolish thing? A student with the notion of killing classmates has no qualms with walking into the building holding the weapon. The false appearances of security metal detectors provide is a sham. When school adopts the atmosphere of a jail, do the students feel safe or like convicts? Metal detectors do not filter out anger and fear (Orr 139-140). The problem is not the weapons, it is the system.

Who is to blame? Parents? Video Games? Television? Marilyn Manson? People need to stop pointing fingers and start evaluating the situation. The word “desensitized” is thrown around liberally when discussing violence; not without cause. Exposure to graphic images and language and witnessing powerful images of violence regularly cheapens the effect on the human brain. Heads exploding becomes humor, when someone is hurt witnesses laugh. When one is awarded points in a game for precision and efficiency in killing; real death loses meaning. In the Jonesboro, Arkansas shootings students laughed when a teacher told the, students had been shot (Grossman 2-8). The reaction is disturbing at first, but in our culture where millions of students pull triggers on arcade games every day, murder is mundane.

If recreational fun is shooting cops on your T.V. screen, or blasting away on a computer, violence becomes the acceptable means to justify the ends. If one does not conform and follow the culturally-prescribed sanctions, why not rebel with guns? When students become ostracized, a sociological Labeling theory applies. It states that once labeled as a deviant by others, one will assume that role (Calhoun et al. 179). If every day in school a teenager hears slurs and sniggers as they walk to class, it has an affect on them.

The horrible wake-up calls of Jonesboro, Columbine, Conyers, Georgia and other schools has left a lasting impressions on our nation’s youth. A teenager interviewed by James Garbarino and Ellen deLara said: “I generally feel safe at school, but after [Columbine] I know that that is an illusion. Very little can stop that sort of thing. Teachers has no control” (3). Another boy had nightmares, and a girl stayed home from school out of fear. More recently, Cohasset has experienced first-hand bomb and shooting threats. The grim world we live in is one of hate, guns, and violence. These kinds of things never happened here, in our small town. Bomb scares and threatening messages were unsettling to say the least. I witnessed students laughing about it and making jokes about guns, and the gravity of the situation seemed to be above them. I laughed and made some of those jokes myself in school, but the laughter was nervous. What does one do when the situation is suddenly present in your school? The images from Columbine in 1999 came flooding back to me, along with the chilling school violence films Elephant and Bang, Bang, You’re Dead. that was based off the shooting. The words we use so loosely can hold more meaning than we think.

The nature of bullying presents a hurdle in the prevention of school violence. Not much can be done to truly stop taunting, the tormentor usually has to move on or realize their error for all abuse to cease. The insults build up inside, and sooner or later kids fight back (Garbarino and deLara 4). In most cases, it takes years of harassment and long-term abuse that end with school shootings. The shooters feel like it is their only option. Pre-meditated violence on the scale of Columbine is prefaced by years of incessant torture (Garbarino and deLara 78-82).

Schools have also had other failures in violence prevention. First of all, they fall short by using violence to discourage violence. The teachers make their students feel unsafe by leading with a poor example (Garbarino and deLara 77). Also, a lack of distinction for abuse, no name for the crime prevents identification of a problem and ultimately, a resolution. If the adults don’t react to improper or uncouth acts by labeling it abuse it will become ingrained in social life and accepted (Garbarino and deLara 21). Finally, Garbarino and deLara discuss the adult witnessing of sexual harassment and the assumption it’s flirting. The difference between the two is hard to differentiate (98).

Additionally, some steps of prevention that have had success are groups advocating self-control, a “JFK” mentality of stressing what students can do to improve the school experience. Kids need to be encouraged to stick up for their peers, discuss their feelings with others, and report cries for help. Last but not least, pupils need to utilize their speech and act as role models (Orr 156). Once youth begins campaigning for a more supportive environment and work to eliminate violence, changes occur. Students must “be the change [they] want to see in the world” (“Mahatma”).

Fortunately, awareness has risen and despite the media’s exaggeration, school violence is at the lowest level it has been in a decade (“School Violence Rate Stable”). The study, released November of this year, yielded the following:

Among students nationwide, an estimated 5 percent experienced a crime at school…about 4 percent reported a crime of theft and 1 percent reported having been a violence victim at school. This equals an estimated 1.2 million crimes of theft against students and about 740,000 violent crimes, including an estimated 150,000 of the most serious violent victimizations (rape, sexual assault, robbery, aggravated assault). Students also reported that about two-thirds of the serious violent crimes they experienced did not occur at school. In 2003 students also reported less fear at school than in earlier years as well as declining rates of being involved in school fights and lower percentages of students bringing weapons to school. However, access to illegal drugs at school, bullying behavior, and the presence of gangs at school appears to have not changed in recent years…During the 2002 school year there were 17 homicides and 5 suicides of school-age children at school. There were an estimated annual 119,000 thefts from teachers and 65,000 violent offenses against teachers at school, which is a per capita rate of 25 thefts and 14 violent crimes per 1,000 teachers. High school teachers were the most vulnerable to violence at school. About one in eight students (12 percent) reported that someone had used hate-related words against them at school. Approximately 5 percent of students reported in 2003 that they had either skipped school or avoided specific places at school because they were fearful, which was a lower percentage than in recent years. During 2003, 21 percent of public and private students said street gangs were present at their schools. Urban students were more likely than their suburban or rural peers to report the presence of gangs in their schools in 2003 (31 percent vs. 18 percent and 12 percent respectively). Seven percent of students ages 12-18 reported being bullied at school during the last 6 months. Public school students were more likely to report being bullied than private school students (7 percent compared to 5 percent). (“School Violence Rate Stable”

Clearly, the problem of school violence is prevalent in our country. As a nation, we are faced with the challenge of solving it. Coalitions have been formed to offer the opportunity for collaboration in finding a solution. All the groups in the world can’t go individually to each school and monitor everyone ensuring success. The realization has to be made by the persecutor for true success. David Saltzman wrote, “It’s up to us to make a difference. It’s up to us to care” (“David”). Students across the country need to realize that they hold their destiny in their own hands. With a little empathy, kindness and some abiding by the Golden Rule, benefits will start appearing.

This isn’t idealistic. This is the most pragmatic and realistic approach to school violence. If students model the right kind of behavior not everyone will change, but some people will. Someone will walk up to a kid who needs a friend and say hello. It doesn’t matter what anyone says, that is making a difference. The problem of school violence will not be solved by metal detectors, school psychologists, or zero-tolerance policies. Students need to realize that if they change one person’s day, they change the world.


Calhoun, Craig, Donald Light, Suzanne Keller, and Douglas Harper. Understanding Sociology. New York, New York: Glencoe McGraw-Hill, 2001.

Cullen, Dave. "Goodbye, Cruel World." Salon News. 14 Dec.-Jan. 1999. 15 Oct.-Nov. 2005 .

Cullen, Dave. "Inside the Columbine High investigation." Salon News. 23 Sept. 1999. 15 Oct.-Nov. 2005 .

"David SaltzMan." The Jester and Pharley Phund. 14 Dec. 2005 .

Garbarino, Ph.d., James, and Ellen Delara, Ph.d. And Words Can Hurt Forever: How To Protect Adolescents from Bullying, Harassment, and Emotional Violence. New York: The Free P, 2002.

Grossman, Dave. Stop Teaching Our Kids to Kill: A Call to Action against TV Movie & Video Game Violence. New York: Crown, 1999.

Keep Schools 12 Oct.-Nov. 2005 .

"Mahatma Gandhi." Quotations Page. 10 Dec.-Jan. 2005 .

Orr, Tamra. Violence In Our Schools: Halls Of Hope, Halls of Fear. New York: Franklin Watts, 2003.

"School Violence Rate Stable Lowest Level In A Decade." Bureau of Justice Statistics. 23 Nov.-Dec. 2005 .