Nikolas Cruz Was the Bully: Why #Walkup is the Right Thing at the Wrong Time

The WalkUp idea started with Ryan Petty a father of one of Cruz’s victims. At a press conference he encouraged students to walk up to 14 students and 3 adults and say something nice, and get to know them, instead of walking out of school for seventeen minutes. During that Press conference he also implored state legislators to do three, things all of which echoed the sentiments of the WalkOut protestors. Enhance safety and security of schools. Second, keep guns out of the hands of those who pose a risk to themselves or others. Finally state leaders must improve mental health resources for at risk youth. These are the very things that many students wrote a letter to congressmen requesting during the seventeen minutes they walked out of their school in solidarity with their peers across the country.

Take the time to read up on the accounts of Nikolas Cruz. This isn’t a story of a bullied kid handing out unmitigated retribution on his tormentors and the silent bystanders. This was a kid described as having developmental issues, and impulse control issues. Students who had tried to strike up conversations reported that he only talked about guns knives and hunting. He was known for posting videos and pictures on social media of him killing animals. The behavioral issues that led to his expulsion included threatening other students and a teacher. Not a teacher who was disciplining him but trying to help him. There was such a concern about his mental state and the threat he posed that he wasn’t even allowed to bring a backpack to school.

He wasn’t a loner because he was weird or different. He was a loner because he was dangerous. Even the most accepting of us would think twice about engaging someone like that. So why are telling kids the best response to this latest school shooting is to #walkup? Even still, at his request, Nikolas and his brother moved in with a friend’s family back in November. Clearly this was a kid who was no stranger to the kindness and generosity of others. Another student interviewed after the shooting said they had been close friends until Nikolas started going after and threatening another of his friends. WalkUp has all the feels of being an anti-bully movement, which has tremendous merit when it’s not being used to redirect civil protest and become little more than victim blaming. Under these circumstances it neglects to see that Nikolas Cruz appears to be the bully long before he became a mass murderer.

I grieve for the obvious brokenness of Nikolas. Surely he was ill-equipped to navigate the loss of both his parents by the age of 18. I simply see no link to justify an anti-bullying be nice movement in response to this because that wasn’t the issue. Especially when so many adults have resorted to bullying tactics in response to the very students who have spoken out after surviving this incident. Students that knew how dangerous he was. Some of whom notified the proper authorities when he posted that he wants to be a “professional school shooter” and nothing was done. I fear WalkUp has become just another example of adults thinking they know best and not listening to young people, particularly those who were there.

Again Cruz found pleasure in torturing and killing animals, which is a clear indicator that his lack of empathy was the issue, not his peers. The same day students were protesting demanding legislative action in the same three areas Mr. Petty spoke of, the WOOFF Act was introduced on the Senate floor in response to a dog dying in an overhead bin of a plane. It was 48 hours after the incident. Next April will be twenty years since Columbine.

I’m all for people loving one another. The core sentiments and principles of “WalkUp” are things I have practiced and preached specifically to youth in seventeen years of student ministry. You don’t have to be a Christian to understand why loving one another is linked to the greatest commandment of loving God. However, extending the hand of friendship and gestures of gratitude will not change the fact that the mentally ill and unstable (an individual who is well short of responsible), can #walkup to a gun retailer and #walkout with a gun.

Token Confessions Entry 1 – On This the Six Year Anniversary of the Murder of Trayvon Martin

Six years ago today Trayvon Martin was murdered on his way home from the convenience store. His death and the subsequent acquittal of George Zimmerman was the catalyst for the Black Lives Matter Movement.

Today I am reflecting on the past six years of this social movement against anti-Black racism in light of the present gun debate we are having.

Dylan Roof and Nikolas Cruz received more restraint and strict adherence to procedural protocol after killing 26 people between the two of them than…

Tamir Rice
Philando Castile
Alton Sterling
John Crawford III

In all four of those cases (two involving toy guns) I don’t recall any pro-gun advocates or the NRA being alarmed at how quickly these individuals were killed due to them possessing a firearm, and every intermediate step of de-escalation was bypassed in favor of just shooting and killing the individual. What about their…’

Gun Rights

Black victims had their whole lives excavated in order to find cause for victim blaming. Trayvon Martin? Smoked weed, Not just any weed but allegedly chemically enhanced weed that made him aggressive. Moreover, he had recently been suspended from school. Tamir Rice was “large for his age”, and “shouldn’t have been playing with a toy gun at a park”, in a city where white men flaunted their right to open carry inside of Target. Mike Brown was equated to wrestling legend Hulk Hogan or a demon, plus he had just stolen cigarillos. Philando should have just done what the officer asked. Eric Garner shouldn’t have questioned why they were messing with him over selling loose cigarettes. Nikolas Cruz and Dylan Roof on the other hand were simply…

Troubled
Suffering from Mental Illness

I’m grateful that the survivors from Marjory Stoneman Douglas are being given a national platform to air their grievances and concerns instead of tanks, militarized riot police, and tear gas. Moreover, I doubt high schoolers across the country will be met with much more than a suspension if they stage walk outs from school. I wish the same would have opportunity for constructive dialogue before lawmakers would have been given to the teenagers and citizens of…

Baltimore
Ferguson

I agree that there needs to be more resources education and awareness on mental illness. If for no other reason so we can make a distinction between mental illness and toxic unresolved anger that grows and festers if left in isolation. I wish there was a similar push for education of…

Emancipation Proclamation ended slavery not white supremacy
Generational Poverty
The High School to Prison Pipeline
The failure of the Mass Incarceration System

And how all those things have negatively affected communities of color.

I believe most gun owners are responsible law-abiding and knowledgeable about the rights afforded them under the Second Amendment. I understand their suspicion of a slippery slope that would lead to the dismantling of their rights under the second amendment. US prison population went from 350K to over 2 mil. A disproportionate amount of them black and brown largely because of the dismantling of the…

4th Amendment
14th Amendment

But I don’t think they have to worry too much even if gun laws became a little more strict. The origins of the Second Amendment was to defend against the possible invasion of the British trying to take back the continent, and against possible insurrection of the indigenous people’s of America and West African slaves. That’s why there were so many laws prohibiting free black men from bearing arms, because the Second Amendment functionally only defended the right to bear arms for…

Land Owners (colonizers)
White Men

Over 20 million Native Americans were killed leaving only a remnant left to live on reservations, slavery was reshaped into the mass incarceration system whilst America re-segregated itself, and the Brits are welcome as tourists and green card-carrying expats. It’s no wonder the gun debate is so contentious amongst, white America because the only ones they have left to bear arms against is…

One Another

When the murderer is Muslim, America responds with a travel ban. When the murderer is Hispanic, America responds with tougher immigration laws (for those seeking to cross our southern borders) and wants to build a wall. When the murderer is Black, America responds with more police and prisons. When the murderer is White, America responds with…

Thoughts and prayers