Phoebe Prince is on my mind. Phoebe made the news last week when she hung herself after enduring three months of bullying and harassment by her classmates. The 15-year-old pretty Irish girl who recently immigrated to this country was ridiculed because she was new, because she dated a senior football player and because she was pretty. Several of her classmates are now being charged with a variety of crimes, including statutory rape, criminal harassment, civil rights violations and stalking.
These are 15-year-old kids I‘m talking about. They say kids learn behaviors at home, good or bad. An abused child becomes an abuser, a bullied child becomes a bully. At home, reinforced by blustering bullies on TV news day after day cruel bullying looses its edge, it’s taken for granted by adults, accepted as the norm. You could say it’s subliminal. How many nights of Glenn Beck viewing does it take to make a bully?
Where will it end?
After the passage of the health care bill angry citizens spit on congressmen and broke their windows. A gas line was severed at the home of a congressman’s brother, death threats were made. Our president has been called a Nazi. Yesterday someone posted a physical threat on this blog against the editor.
Sarah Palin urged Tea Parytiers, “Don't Retreat, Instead — RELOAD!” She singled out 20 House Democrats who voted for the health care bill as targets on her website using a map with cross-hair gun sights on their districts; a political tactic with a clear message.
Politics is a mirror of our society, reflecting a population fired up and given permission by its leaders to bully, and resort to violence.
Where will it end? Bullying and violence will beget more, and while Phoebe Prince’s death cannot be directly linked to the negativity and prejudice we see today, it cannot be denied that we give permission to our children to berate and belittle, when we say, “that‘s the way we do it here,” consequences be damned.
-- Barbara March