My ears perk up whenever I hear a story of a bully. Not that I was bullied and have an appetite for revenge. I’ve just always tried to root for the underdog, and have a soft spot for the downtrodden and oppressed.
So when the news came out today about this viral video, the one where the 68-year-old bus monitor is driven to tears at the taunts of the middle school boys riding the bus, I of course immediately was hooked. I thought about my kids, and whether I’d ever have to worry about them doing this.
I don’t think I need to worry about mine. At least I hope I don’t.
I guess you never really know for sure how your kids will behave when their parents aren’t around. The best you can hope for is that, when they’re in a situation where they have a choice to make — follow the crowd and go along with whatever evil is being perpetrated, or think independently and do the right thing — they’ll choose the latter.
In this case specifically, the kids obviously chose the path of extreme disrespect. And now a Facebook page has been set up to collect money for the bus monitor so she can take a nice vacation. Which is fine, I guess. I feel really bad for her, but collecting money to send her someplace nice is neither relevant nor does anything to solve what I think is the real problem.
Forget raising $250,000 for the woman (which is reportedly where the figure stood last time I checked.) Forget disciplining the kids (although they should be disciplined.)
Instead, I say we need to bring the parents of these kids in for a little sit down, and find out what they’re doing in their homes that led to their kinds thinking it was OK to torture an elder.
There are things happening all around us that can have an impact on how kids will behave. Our society is 100 percent to blame for letting cultural garbage like “Jersey Shore” see the light of day. It’s our own fault that we all continue to watch and encourage television shows that reward and glorify humiliation and embarrassment — one person’s hell gets turned into entertainment for the rest of us. That kind of culture, and the marketing machines behind it all, contributes to stuff like Busgate.
But ... There are bad influences everywhere. If what was “wrong” was merely a byproduct of the media environment we live in, you’d think we’d have an even worse bullying situation than we already do. What’s the difference?
I think it’s this: Most of us are doing our jobs as parents. Most of us are taking the time to teach our young ones to respect others, to not judge people on skin color or weight or sexual orientation, but on actions and character. Most of us.
Some of us aren’t. And I think that’s the difference.
I can forgive the kids who did this. They’re middle schoolers who made a big mistake. Have any of us gone through our lives without making a few mistakes? Of course not. One or two bad decisions doesn’t define a person’s character. They’ll learn from this. They’ve already been outed.
What’s more important, though, is that the parents of these kids take a good look at whether they missed something. The hate-filled salvos that were lobbed in the bus monitor’s direction were of the variety that could lead the casual observer to think these kids had lobbed these kinds of salvos, and used this kind of language, before.
My plan for this evening is to have a talk with my boy. He’s the same age as the perpetrators in Busgate. He’s also been sat down before and listened to his mom and I talk to him about respect. He says please and thank you, and holds the door for a girl or elder. He’s never had to be disciplined before for anything like this. Here’s hoping he never will.
Robb Murray is a Free Press staff writer. Contact him at email@example.com or 344-386.