I think it’s fair to judge a society on how it cares for and attends to its children, animals, and last on the list – women. I think in a way, a child is a social experiment. Sure, the great majority of that rearing is up to the parents and its teachers, but there are moments where we, as a whole humanity, say loudly, “this is what we want the world to look like in the future.”
I’m thinking about a couple of stories this morning. One is about the North Vancouver yearbook debacle (or tragedy depending upon how you look at it) that I read about in the Huffington Post. Here’s a short synopsis – a young boy, named Rob, horribly bullied, and hated at school for most of the years he attended, goes to pick up his yearbook. Under each student’s picture and name, there are a list of goals, dreams, or adjectives used to describe the students. The words are theoretically used as a way to sum up one’s hopes and dreams as they leave school.
There is one word under Rob’s picture: FAG.
Now, let’s be clear here. This is not a word scribbled in pen by another feck-wad of a student. This is a word printed in indelible typeface in EVERY copy of the yearbook, under his name by a printing house. A word that clearly must’ve been passed over by the eyes of the student yearbook committee, the appointed supervising member of the faculty, and the printing facility. Granted, this all happened a long time ago to Rob (circa 1970)…but still.
That’s really the immediate response I have. “But, still.” A third grade response for a third grade act. Because I mean how, HOW, can people sit by and let that happen? Never mind that the guy is straight, and raced out of high school, not even attending his graduation day to marry his high school sweetheart. Never mind the fact that he’s not even gay. Never mind it. The point is that it happened. We (as in society) let it happen.
It reminds me of a story that Wifesy told me once. A young man that she used to work with walked through an alley in Venice on the way to his car. He saw a group of younger, teenage, boys in the alley huddled around a young and scared puppy. They had doused it with gasoline and struck a match. No, I’m not kidding you. The young man ran over to them and said, “Stop, stop. I’ll give you everything I have in my wallet. Just stop what you’re doing and give me the puppy.”
He handed over a few hundred dollars and the teenagers walked away from the unthinkable.
My question is…don’t we all have an obligation to say, “Stop!” Don’t we have an obligation to handover the contents of our wallet in order to stop a great deal of cruelty?
I look back upon my past and in a sense, I’m proud that I can find very little in it that includes picking on something small, innocent, and easily broken. I remember one incident, though, very clearly. I had a six pack of juice boxes brought from home. I placed them on the bench in the locker room. A teammate of mine asked me for one. I said, “Sure, but don’t give any to Sandy.” To this day, I don’t know why I said it. I don’t even remember disliking Sandy. Nevertheless, I said it and immediately after the words left my lips, Sandy rounded the corner. She had heard the whole thing from the other side of the lockers. That had to be over 30 years ago and I still remember it like it was yesterday. I still have guilt about it and it’s minor in comparison to printing “fag” under someone’s name or trying to burn a puppy alive in a back alley.
Yet, there is something built into my character, into my anatomy, that makes me regret it. Why isn’t this type of regret built into the anatomy of everyone? Or maybe it is and some people simply find it easier to ignore?
I’m not saying we need to police every, little, thing kids say and do. I get that some uncomfortable things are just a part of growing up. I’m not saying we need to stop kids from being kids and -unfortunately- kids are going to be cruel. What I am saying is, can’t we do better? Can’t we do better as a whole?
I’ve read a couple of stories about a parent -literally- going into physical battle for their kid. I’ve read about a woman who choked her daughter’s bully, another one who physically smacked the crap out of a kid who beat her own, and a third about a man who got on a school bus and physically threatened to end the life of another boy who had taunted his disabled son. And those are just the stories that I know of. (Think of them like cockroaches, if you can see one, that means there are literally hundreds.)
A rational adult will hear stories like that and cringe a little bit because a parent is supposed to know better. A parent is supposed to do better. It’s reprehensible for a parent to smack another person’s kid or even threaten them. They should go to the other child’s parents first or the school board or the teacher. All true. However, there’s a little part of me that goes, “Yeah,” when I hear about such a thing. I think that’s because whether it’s the right thing to do or not, when an adult tells a little kid to knock it off, it’s the age old theory of “might equals right” at work and at the very least, for the moment, problem thwarted.
But, it’s still not the right thing. The right thing would be treat these kids, helpless puppies, and yes, in a more subtle way – women – like they were a reflection upon how we want the world to be. We want kids to feel safe and we want the helpless to be defended by the capable. We want women to enjoy liberty without reprisal. None of that is possible, unless reasonable adults stick their noses into sticky situations and say, “Stop” wherever it is necessary.
When no one does, you have a grown adult male, who still hurts from something printed 42 years ago. You have a society that says, “That’s just kids being kids. Get over it.” Quite frankly, that’s not where I want to live. The experiment is not over, but when sh*t like that happens, we’ve failed.
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