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Hundreds in Greenwich Mourn Their Murder Of Bart Palosz

Posted by Chris Bowen on September 4, 2013

Image courtesy of Greenwich Patch, via the Palosz family.

Image courtesy of Greenwich Patch, via the Palosz family.

“This is a eulogy, as so rather than making it a lecture on what and who failed Bart, it is most important at this time to celebrate Bart’s life, and to grieve over our tragic loss.”

The eulogy for Bart Palosz, who Greenwich High sophomore who committed suicide after the first day of school last week, was well written, emotional, and largely sidestepped the major issues that led to Mr. Palosz ending his life, after years of bullying, and indifference on the part of the Greenwich school system. Instead of naming and shaming names, it did what it was supposed to do: celebrate the life of someone who was, by all accounts, a brilliantly intelligent young man who didn’t fit in with the societal norms expected of a teenager. In short, they handled it with grace and dignity.

I don’t have nearly the same limits, and therefore, don’t require the same grace and dignity.

Let’s be blunt: the larger community of Greenwich killed Bart Palosz. They might not have pulled the trigger on the shotgun, but through equal parts bullying and depraved indifference, they might as well have. What’s striking about this young man is that he really was the better person in just about any case one could think of; he was outright told that he should fight back, but ultimately decided that it wouldn’t be “right”. He took his beliefs to the grave when it became too much to deal with.

The reason it became too much to deal with is because of the stupid, lazy and downright incompetent people that have been involved with the schooling of this poor kid since he started to receive abuse, not to mention the inhuman devils that literally beat him into submission. People were told throughout the years that the bullying was getting worse and worse, and administrators continued to put their heads in the sand. They had union meetings to attend, I guess. And really, Greenwich is rich; couldn’t they afford a shrink? We have almost 2,500 students to address! How could we notice the subtle and understated clues that he was giving?

Naturally, this kid should have just sucked it up. After all, everyone is bullied at some point in their lives, and we all turned out fine! That’s some of the sentiment I hear about the suicide of a kid. Local resident Tony Mammone, who is such a buffoon I’m not even going to play nice by just calling him a “local resident”, summed up this mindset in a Facebook thread:

Everyone faces some sort of bullying growing up. It is more widely publicized now. Quit coddling the youth today as it is making them a bunch of overly sensitive babies.

(…)

Idiot? Ok thanks. I did read the article. I was the fat kid growing up. I got teased for it and ‘bullied’ it’s part of growing up. If the kid shoots everyone in school, he a menace. If he kills himself, he’s bullied. Why not speak up, and ask for help.

Anyone saying this is thinking back to some idyllic time where people all mostly got along, and the worst anyone did was occasionally receive a swirly. I was bullied a lot as a kid, and in some cases, I got it *bad*. Some of it, I’ll never forget, and some of it, I’ll never forgive, even in my 30s, a time when I really should be over it. I was able to survive, and even thrive after the fact, but there were a few key differences:

1) Bart Palosz is a better person than I was. He wouldn’t strike people back. I, on the other hand, fought a lot. This frequently meant I had to fight four or five on one, granted, but a lot of bullying was able to be stopped simply because I got big enough and angry enough to do some damage. This is the easy answer for people my age or older, but guess what? It’s a bad answer! Violence is a bad thing! Do you know what fighting got me? More fights! More times being hurt! More times hurting other people! And no, it wasn’t limited to just people who tried to beat me up; I got very trigger-happy in my adolescence, and I’m not proud of that. Even today, my first instinct is to just punch someone who I think is a threat. I’m 33! This shit stays with you.

2) Today’s bullies are vicious. Read this post in the Daily News – of all places – where they described some of the things he went through. They bashed his head against a locker in the 8th grade, causing him to go to the ER. Someone smashed his phone in the middle of biology class. And this is just the stuff we’re hearing about in the papers! Of course the Greenwich school system is playing defense.

3) Today’s bullies don’t stop at school. When I was young, most of the time, stuff ended at school. If you lived in a rough area, sometimes it extended to that area, but you could avoid it just by going home for the most part. Today, that’s not possible for anyone who has a Facebook or Google+ account. Girls are particularly aware of this type of bullying; leave school, come home, and have people posting your half-naked picture online while filling your inbox with “whore”, “slut” or (for the boys) “fag”. Bullying is a 24/7 enterprise in 2013, and it’s getting worse.

I am aghast that no one looked at his Google+ page and decided not to get involved. I have personally gotten involved in the cases of three people who were going to kill themselves or at the very least were saying they were. I don’t mean just making a comment with ascii hearts or “~~hugz~~”, I mean calling the police. Each case involved deep information diving on my part, and calls to various police forces. Bart’s G+ profile outright says he lived in Greenwich; did no one take him seriously? Or did no one give a crap? I wish I saw this before the fact, put it that way. At the very least, it scares someone straight. At best? It could save a life. And blaming the parents in this particular case isn’t wise, either; I don’t expect Polish immigrants in their 40s or 50s, with a daughter going to college, to know their way around the internet.

So of course, the Greenwich community is positively mourning the loss of their young man. Reports came out that after Bart’s death, all of his old schools were overrun with crisis counselors to console anyone who needed it. How quaint. The people who either outright bullied Bart, or who stood by and watched it happen with at best cowardice and at worst a bemused and perverted enjoyment of the festivities. A show with lunch, how adorable. Where the fuck was Bart’s crisis team!? Where was his guidance counselor!? Where was anyone, who was in a position to stop the inhumane treatment he was receiving, day after day, year after year, throughout his entire schooling life, until he finally decided that death was a preferable solution to having to endure this torture for one more year, let alone three?

The saddest tragedy in all of this is that this will go away. The administrators in charge of Greenwich’s school system will be able to put out passive statements about doing everything they can to “look into” what happened, without actually doing anything. The people who covered up his being smashed into a locker and covering up the video footage won’t be charged with even a civil crime, much less a criminal one. The horrific human beings who slowly beat and abused him to death will not only never see the inside of a prison cell, but will not have any inconvenience, short of press attention for a few days, to their lives. If the people who did this are football players, they will never miss a game; after all, Greenwich might be good and the FCIAC is tough, you know?

It is my sincere hope against all hope that the people who are responsible for the murder – yes, murder – of Bart Palosz know what they did, and that the image of this tall, awkward but developing child haunts them every waking hour of their day. I hope they have the intellectual honesty to admit – if only to themselves – that they – students, administrators, teachers – are directly responsible for the death of this person, and that the combination of that realization and their natural cowardice causes them to experience a gradual mental breakdown, as the weight of their crimes works at their conscience like a pickaxe on a rock, breaking them down farther and farther until they become husks of their former selves. Then, and only then, can they understand what they did to this man. The Christians can save their adorable notions on forgiveness for Sunday mass. I want these people to suffer for the rest of their lives, and to die broken people.

Sadly, I might be asking too much. Empathy is a human emotion, after all. These people who systematically killed a child aren’t human.

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The Police State Came To Greenwich

Posted by Chris Bowen on August 29, 2013

metronorthPeople ask me why I have such a strong, visceral distrust – at best – for the police. “They’re there to help you!” “You should respect their sacrifice!” “They’re just doing their jobs!” I am told this by the people closest to me in life; the mother who was protected by the third shift police she served while waiting tables to raise me, the girlfriend who comes from a family of Irish cops, I catch flak for my stance often. “But Chris, not all cops are like that!”, I’m told. Well, I guess we’ll just put neon “bad cop” signs on the ones that aren’t.

Today showed a pretty good exhibit A on why I feel the way I do.

My daily routine includes getting on what is currently the 5:26 train from Westport, meeting up with my girlfriend on the train, dropping off in Bridgeport, and then getting on the Waterbury bound train for our destinations; her’s in Beacon Falls, mine in Derby. Today, that was shot to hell as we heard, as soon as my bus shuttle got to the train station, that the 5:26 train was delayed due to “police activity”. I later found out what it was: police searching for a bank robber. To be fair, locking down Metro North – especially with the report of an armed person potentially riding the train – was the right move. It was the way they did it that I find particularly galling:

“At one time, when the SWAT team arrived in full gear, they said, ‘Everyone get off your seat and on the ground and put your hands in the air,’” Paschos said.

(…)
“Something major going on at #Greenwich train station,” Jennifer Garcia, of Long Island City, posted. “Cops have guns drawn, searching every car on my train.”
In another tweet, Garcia said passengers were forced to keep their arms raised as police searched the cars.

Let’s review: a train full of people just trying to go home, who have no clue what’s going on, are told by armed thugs with huge guns and vicious dogs to stand up and keep their hands up, prone, until further notice.

If that doesn’t chill you to the bone, you are a special kind of coward, and deserve no security or liberty. There’s really no middle ground.

If you support having to keep completely prone and vulnerable, hands high, in full submission, assumed guilty until proven innocent, you stand for exactly the opposite of the freedom that this country was founded upon.

There’s this mindset – usually among caucasian, white collar civilians, I’ll note – that the police are infallible, and even if they make a mistake, they have to be trusted to protect you. Speaking out in opposition to this mindset brands one a troublemaker who deserves watching. This is a notion that has been systematically destroyed over the past 50 years. Police officers armed with very large guns and very bad attitudes – weather in homes, on the road, or on a train – have been treating the citizens they’re supposed to protect like an insurgent force that must be dispatched. It’s dissipated down to regular patrols, where three cops and a K9 seem to be necessary to do anything; that was the composition of the team that tied me up, before saying a single word, like a pork dumpling, with my wrists shackled to my ankles behind me, for the grievous offense of driving my car onto an unused football pitch at 1.5 MPH with the intention of using my headlights to look for a discus. This wasn’t in Bridgeport; this was in small-town Seymour, CT. I got off easy; the news is filled to the brim of people and pets who were shot and murdered by police forces – who would go on to do their utmost best to cover up their crimes – simply for being in the wrong place at the wrong time, moving in a subtle way that made a psychotic individual fire and forget. The most recent case is that of six cops using a taser to detain one (1) 18 year old skateboarder, and then high-fiving over his twitching body, one that would soon become a corpse. His offense? Graffiti.

These are the people who I am supposed to trust with my life? These are my “protectors”?

If one thinks that in this specific case, such an awful, fascist mindset is plausible, take yourself through the mindset of what it takes to actually acquiesce to such a degree. A SWAT team officer, a regular police patrolman, you, I, everyone, we all put our pants on the same way. Anyone not reading this from a penitentiary is a competent, fully-grown adult who is capable and expected to conduct ourselves in a way that takes care of ourselves and our own, as long as we don’t infringe upon the rights of others. In short, I am no less of a man than anyone who had those guns today. I am supposed to bear my proverbial belly just because another man says so? And to do it not only without complaint, but with a smile, safe in the knowledge that my goodness, my saviors are here to save the day? I am now officially viewed as so inferior that I am automatically a threat just by being somewhere? I am a law abiding citizen; why should I be treated like a criminal until some higher power determines that I am worthy of my inalienable rights?

My country has become an Orwellian parody.

Technically, I don’t even really have a right to complain. After all, even though I’m a large, athletic man who can do some damage in a fight, I’m still a young white man who rides in a predominately affluent area; Westport is basically Greenwich for old people. Imagine if I was black? Or hispanic? Or – God help me – of Middle Eastern origin!? It’s pretty obvious how I’d be treated.

However, a funny thing happened on the Waterbury train. My girlfriend and I sat across from a couple of middle-aged women in business attire – caucasian, because despite our “post-racial” society, this matters – were reading the story about the bank robbery, and paid particular mind to the part about everyone having their hands up waiting for their heroes to let them go home. To them, the mindset was appalling; one even noted that it would be frightening, and that they hadn’t really thought about it before.

Everyone’s a sheep until the manger’s on fire, I guess.

Ultimately, the only real cost to my day was that I got home later than I wanted to, too late to make it to play basketball. My girlfriend missed an appointment, but it’s one she’ll be able to make in two weeks with no damage. For us, who were stops ahead of Greenwich, this was nothing more than an inconvenience. However, we need a societal upheaval against the very notion that our police can detain and completely incapacitate hundreds of people to catch one guy who’s dressed like a rejected Bond villain and didn’t even fire a shot (by the way, this would be a good time to mention that they didn’t catch him. They failed in their goal. They used a nuke to kill a fly, and the fly lived). It’s dangerous to a free society to have this mindset, and in all honesty, modern police forces have not even come close to earning this level of trust. It is everyone’s duty to try to apprehend someone who can put the lives of others in danger, but it is an equal duty to fight back against the vice of the police state.

Posted in Local News, Local Politics, Personal | Tagged: , , , | 3 Comments »

The Killing Road

Posted by Chris Bowen on August 20, 2013

lepricrossIn my time as a writer and as a journalist and blogger, I have taken a lot of pictures of events, people, and things. My job has largely been video games, not war photography. But I can never remember a time when I was in as much danger as when I got the shot to the left of this paragraph.

To get this shot, I had to walk along what we locally call Pink House Cove. It’s a brutal stretch of road; a 40MPH, blind curve with two way traffic. On one side of the road, you have a guard rail protecting the Housatonic River. On the other side, you have a small mountain that turns certain curves into guessing games because you can’t see what’s coming from the other end. Both sides feature virtually no shoulder, so there’s nowhere to go if something goes wrong. I walked along the inside curve of the mountain to get to this site to be able to get this picture, not being able to see where the cars were and – worse – them not being able to see me. I stayed to the inside as far as I could, but it never felt like enough; one person coming too fast, or over-correcting to the inside, could make me the middle of a crunchy sandwich. I’m a brave man who has survived a war, but I am not without feeling, and I would be lying if I said I wasn’t a touch afraid for my life as I walked about 1/8th of a mile to this spot.

Despite all that, I managed to get across the street and into a good enough position, on the other side of the guard rail, to get the shot.

Why would I risk my life like this, on a notorious road at sundown? Easy: the shot is the memorial cross for Marie Lepri, who died on June 7th, 2010, killed by someone driving this very curve too aggressively. And it’s my vain hope that my own little bit of risk helps drive enough attention to this road to make sure that Marie, and the other people who have died on this road over the years, didn’t die in vain. Read the rest of this entry »

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Thoughts On My Home’s Unspeakable Tragedy

Posted by Chris Bowen on December 14, 2012

I hope someone can forgive me if I don’t have an immediately available, soundbyteable take on gun control – or even mental health treatment – for the greater discussion. Frankly, such conversation can wait, and should; I refuse to politicize 26 dead people, especially when they’re a half hour from my house.

Right now, all I can do is reflect what’s happened to my community. Really reflect. Not just sit around and go “oh, this is sad” and go to a candlelight vigil or something. I need to try to understand the horror of hearing about a shooting at my child’s school, my little girl or boy – I don’t have a child, so I’ll have to substitute my niece, or my youngest brother in high school – attending that school, rushing to the school, only to have someone tell me that my child died at school. I need to try to imagine the knee-buckling pain of that moment, all of the feelings of rage, hopelessness and despair, the kind of pain that has separated good marriages. Imagining the planning of the funeral. Burying my child days before Christmas, and having to return their opened presents. “Didn’t like the gifts?” “Don’t know, he’s dead now”. Having that constant presence in my life, that I made, gone, taken by a stupid teenager with a “social disorder”. Watching the days count by, the years, and mentally picturing the highlights of what would be my child’s life pass by. Graduating various levels of school, playing baseball, learning to drive, first girl/boyfriend… imagining those things, but remembering that they’ll never happen. And through all that, having to tolerate mouth-breathers and gobshites politicize the tragedy – my child’s death - to either make a political point, make some money on some talking head show, or a combination of the two. To remember that to these people, my child’s death is a convenient excuse to make a point.

Then, and only then, will I feel I’ve achieved the level of understanding that is necessary to be able to confidently say what we need to do about this epidemic of mass shootings in our country. Until then, I’m just another asshole with a wounded heart, a shattered sense of security, and a worthless opinion that benefits no one.

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