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Franklin Regional another symptom of the divide

April 10, 2014 - Paul Giannamore
I preface all of this with the thought that I hope all the kids at Franklin Regional High School come through this awful attack to live full, productive lives.

I also with the Pittsburgh electronic newsies would have waited until after the first actual law enforcement briefing, or maybe the second a few minutes later, so that the information was not so jumbled at first. They did pretty well, but they did it a little early, to me.

But such is the time we live in.

And, unfortunately, the same statement applies to the incident itself.

A friend and former co-worker, Julie issued a commentary shortly after it became evident that the issue of bullying was going to play a role in the story.

By no means does anything anyone says about the accused stabber, Alex Hribal, justify taking a pair of long kitchen knives to school or anywhere else and flailing away. But it does again call to mind the world we live in and how we treat others.

Julie noted that every time one of these incidents happen, the inevitable “Why?” gets asked. And time and again there’s a lament about bullying and treatment of the attacker.

I’d add here that, and I’ve already seen it from reactions posted to links to the story, the question eventually devolves into people becoming intolerant bullies in the discussion, confusing any talk about motive with support for the attacker. Worse, devolves like all things in America from whether you spool your toilet paper over or under the roll to actual votes for officeholders into liberals vs. conservatives. It was doing that last night online, too. And the gunnies were advocating that liberals should push to ban kitchen knives. Ugh.

But Julie’s point hits home. She has worked hard to teach her two boys not to take the attitude that they’re better than anyone else. She’s backed that up by jumping down their throats when she heard them belittle anyone. She’s seen her boys take the time to treat others with respect.

And, so far as we know our kids and we hope that they are taking those lessons with them into adult life, I’ve tried to do some of the same kinds of things and it seems to have stuck. You’ll not, for example, hear Gina and Marcus (you better never hear them saying this) using the word “gay” as a negative adjective. When they would say, “Hey, that (insert name of topic, object, car, football team, whatever) is so gay, “ I’d substitute, “Hey, that (insert name of topic, object, car, football team, whatever) is so Italian.”

“Hey, what?” they’d inevitably respond. Do that a few times and it sparks the discussion about racism and tolerance and how being respectful is not condoning anything, it’s treating fellow human beings as fellow human beings.

Those lessons don’t get taught, apparently, all the time. One report I’ve heard said the accused attacker was constantly picked on about his slight stature.

Now, we don’t yet know if bullying really was the cause or if the kid just snapped or if something else predicated him going off with knives.

But it’s still a good point in time to remind not only kids but ourselves that there’s a way to be nice to people that should come first, before political ideology, commentary about lifestyles, religion or any of the other hot buttons. And if that respect is maintained, we may just start learning about the other person, or their religion or their race or their viewpoints, and we may find the common ground that improves the world.

Or we could just bang the drums to hang this kid, shake our heads, make a show of public prayers without following through on the changes prayer should bring, and wait for the next kid.

Maybe he’ll use brass paperweights.

AN ADDENDUM: The kid's attorney said the day after this was written that bullying isn't part of the case. I still stand by my final couple paragraphs about this bein a good time to remind kids that life is finite and we have to treat people with respect. I don't think that any opportunity to teach that lesson should be missed.


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