Tag Archives: Meanness

I Could Not Celebrate: So Kill Me

I know that Osama bin Laden is dead.

I was awake the other night when the announcement was made.

I heard President Obama’s speech and I got this weird feeling that the speech had been written for years and, like a dark Mad Lib, there were just a few holes left for the particulars to be filled in: a few nouns, a few verbs.

How does this help?

Yesterday morning I woke up and I saw all kinds of disturbing images peppering the internet: People screaming at a Phillies game; folks gathered in the streets of Washington, DC and at Ground Zero dancing and singing; Photoshopped pictures of Osama’s head being held by Lady Liberty. Pithy signs.

I felt a little squirmy.

This past Sunday we gathered for YomHashoah, a day commemorating the six million Jews (and others) who were murdered in the Holocaust. Obviously, Osama bin Laden wasn’t a leader who shared our western worldview, I know that. I have a friend who said: “Celebration in the streets is really unimportant either way in the great scheme of things. There are a select few historical figures whose demise is truly wonderful news for the world, and this is one of them — a man whose very existence was a threat to civilization. Ding, dong, the mass-murderer is dead.”

I guess I’m uncomfortable celebrating another person’s murder.

Aren’t we taught not to be joyful when blood is shed?

Proverbs says:

“Do not gloat when your enemy falls; when they stumble, do not let your heart rejoice…” (24:17).

So what are we doing?

Really?

I wish that in his speech Obama had thought to caution Americans, to remind Americans that this is a time to act with discretion and with civility. Because the world is watching us. All this partying seems not to be very productive. More likely, it will simply add fuel to the fire. And it certainly will not do anything to end the “War on Terror” when many Americans look like college students on Spring Break: that is, students behaving badly.

I know that Al-Quaeda is responsible for the attacks on our own soil and so many other atrocities abroad. Still, all the screaming and celebration and nationalistic dogma is unsettling. I’ll leave you all with a quote from Mark Twain:

I’ve never wished a man dead, but I have read some obituaries with great pleasure.

There is a difference about feeling quietly content about a desired result – the death of a person who openly declared war on another country and its people – and making a choice to bombard people with inflammatory images and mob scenes where groupthink is at play.

Let me be clear: I am not saying that Bin Laden was a good man. He was, in fact, and without a doubt a terrible, terrible person. He was like Hitler, okay. Evil. But the Torah teaches us that it is not right to celebrate when someone else is killed, even if they are our enemies. If you just celebrated Passover you should have read this in your Haggadah. As I understand it, this is why we take drops of wine out of our glasses as we read the ten plagues. This is why the angels were rebuked by G-d for celebrating too much as the Egyptians drowned when the Jews crossed the River and made it to the other side. We can be quietly pleased. We can be grateful. We can be respectful of all those who have died as a result of bin Laden’s horrible crimes against humanity. But “partying” when there have been murders committed, on any side, is just another evil.

For those of you who watch the dramatic series Dexter, you know that Dexter Morgan (Michael C. Hall) is a blood-spatter analyst for the Miami Metro Police Department who moonlights as a serial killer. All I know is that Dexter would have handled things a long time ago. Quietly. Discreetly. And he wouldn’t have been celebrating. There is a kind of sanctity to his bloody ritual.

To me, Monday was a little too much like Lord of the Flies.

I got lambasted on my Facebook page yesterday.

It’s okay. I can take it, and I know that others were a little uncomfortable with all the celebration today, too.

One last thing: Martin Luther King, Jr. said:

Darkness cannot drive out darkness; only light can do that. Hate cannot drive out hate; only love can do that. Hate multiplies hate, violence multiplies violemce, and toughness multiplies toughness in a descending spiral of destruction… The chain reaction of evil-hate begetting hate, wars producing more wars – must be broken, or we shall be plunged into a dark abyss of annihilation. -Strength To Love, 1963.

And this is just another of the zillions of reasons I love our county.

I can say my peace and have faith that no-one will haul me or my loved ones off in the morning to be tortured or raped or murdered.

Meanwhile how should teachers handle Osama bin Laden’s death? What kinds of statements would you want teachers to make or not make to their students?

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Are You Proud of Your Sweet Little Bully?

Recently I read one of the most amazing (and terrifying) blog entries called “Memories of a Bullied Kid,” on bullying from single dad laughing, a man who reflects back on a time in his life where he says he was systematically terrorized for years – but that he never said anything to anyone – except once. And he went further to report that when he reported the bullying, things got worse for him. Afterwards, he remained silent and endured the torture for over a decade. With so many students killing themselves these days, it amazes me that he is alive to tell the tale.

In the all the bullying literature that is out there, there is one piece of the puzzle that hasn’t been particularly well documented, and so I’m putting out there. Guess what? Sometimes parents of bullies are proud that their children are bullies. I have heard parents admit they would rather have their children be the ones “standing up for themselves” than the ones being bullied: that they have actually encouraged their children to get physical first, so that they are never made targets themselves. For me, this is the ugliest, darkest side to parenting.

Having been a teacher for 20 years now, and a parent for 11, I see that there is precious little time for elementary school to get to know each other at school. I know this because at the end of their 5th grade year, my son (and one friend) could not identify several of the children in their own class.

“I don’t know his name,” my son admitted.

His friend, who happened to be over that day shrugged: “Me either.”

It was unbelievable to me that my child and his friend could spend an entire year with the same people day in and day out and not know everyone’s first and last names, perhaps some tidbit of personal information.

I guess the sense of community has fallen out of the curriculum. Children are no longer taught to be good citizens, the ethics of being good people. The game is all about getting ahead, getting into the best schools — and kids learn early on that they may need to stomp on a few folks to get there. And I am sad to report that many parents encourage this type of aggressive, mean-spirited competition in athletics and academics. And meanwhile everyone is surprised that bullying in on this rise? Shocked when there is another incident reported, this time more gruesome than the last?

I never thought about college until 11th grade. Now, parents discuss college with their 1st graders. That’s a lot of pressure to put on children. When adults are stressed, they can go for a run, swim a few laps, take a yoga class. Well, kids get stressed out, too.  But sometimes their stress comes out less constructively. So if you don’t even know all the kids in your class . . . well, why not pick on her? She’s weird. Or him? He’s quiet. Or, if you are really sneaky, get someone else to do it for you?

Once learning their children have been acting as bullies, I’m always amazed at how unapologetic parents are. When I hear of kids who have been bullied and that some type of administrative action has taken place – even suspensions – where the school has agreed a particular child had overstepped too many times with too many kids – I am always shocked that part of the restitution never includes a written apology from the bully. No-one ever makes the offending kid write a note to the person he has been kicking around.

If my child intentionally (or unintentionally) hurt someone, he’d either be over at that kid’s house apologizing in person or he’d be writing letters: to the kid he hurt, to the principal (indicating that he understood the infraction), to the parents of the bullied child explicating in essay form precisely what type of punishment(s) he would be receiving at home that would befit his behavior at school.

Apparently, most parents spend more time worrying about their child getting bullied than about their child being a bully. As a result, when they find out their child is bullying others, it takes them by surprise and they don’t know how to handle it.

What would you do if you found out your child was a bully? How would that conversation go? Would you be proud or horrified?

A Thank You Note To Ed

Afternote From RASJ on 7/1/10: A respondent named Russell suggested that I Google Ed’s little tirade (posted below) and guess what? Sure enough, Ed has posted his “one hit number” on more than just a few blogs. I guess the lesson-after-the-lesson is that people come to my blog to read my words, not someone else’s. It is unlikely that all my entries will be stellar, but from here on out, they will be mine.

"Angry Man" by Steve Rhode

Yesterday, I had a phenomenal day as my blog entry was Freshly Pressed (meaning it was recognized as a blog with a quickly growing audience), and it received a fair amount of attention. I was excited and enjoyed moderating all the comments and visiting new blogs. Somewhere in there, the following response came in from a respondent named Ed.

Initially, I felt like I had been punched in the stomach. I took his words personally. I wondered, Who is this guy? And why does he hate me so much?

That lasted for about 1 minute. The real lesson reflects my worldview: Most people are fabulous and supportive and interesting and delightful . . . but there is always going to be that one person who shows up drunk to your party and throws up in your bathroom. He is the thorn in your side, the fingernails on the chalkboard, the raccoon that comes to your campground and eats all your s’mores fixins. That person keeps us humble. Keeps our heads on. He provides balance. The trick is not to let the Eds of the world keep you down. Thank you, Ed, whoever you are.

Here are Ed’s exact words in response to yesterday’s blog. I have let him know that I have reposted his response today, so that he might comment – if he would like to.

So you ended up being just a mother.

Just another mother, like a chimp, a cow, an elephant, a whale, just another mother, like an insect, or an octopus, or a worm. Just another mother.

Your kids will not thank you, your husband will not like you, your own mother will pity you for making her own same mistake.

Just another mother.

For a moment of frenzy, of uterine voracity, irrational and irreversible, you destroyed your body, your beauty, and your own intellect.

Parental-brain-atrophy-syndrome, where your brain biologically adjusts to the need of your infants, descending at their own subhuman level, with just one dimension, food, or perhaps two dimensions, food and feces.

You left your ambitions, your achievements, your potentials outside your life and outside the lives of those who really loved, only to become a receptacle of an unknown body of an unknown person that never will be yours, and to whom you will never belong. Strangers united in a pool of blood and dirt.

And dirt has become your life, and your life has become dirt. Urine, remains of food, excrements, diapers, vacuum cleaners, old soap, crusts, a life of dandruff and diseases, vaccine and lice, high school and drool.

You lost your dignity through your open legs, first inwards and then outwards, first-in-first-out, garbage-in-garbage-out, a boomerang of boredom.

Do you remember who you were?

Do you realize your loss?

Nobody chooses prison voluntarily, except for mothers, except for you.

You chose the life of a slave in a cavern of dirt.

People around you, who know that you are just another mother, do have compassion for you, but no respect. They know all about your emptiness, your pain, your despair, all dressed in the robes of a Virgin Mary.

And a Virgin Mary you are not, because Mary was not a Virgin, and you are not a Mary.

You were manipulated into just another life wasted on the heap of trash of a lost humanity dedicated to popular procreation and proletarian proliferation, to please the leaders of a domain of plebeians.

The world lost you, and you lost the world.

Good bye, sad mothers, good bye, old cows, with dried-out utters and distorted hips, good bye, and so alone you all will die.

Note from RASJ I believe Ed meant to use the word “udders” (as in the things cows have beneath their bellies) – not “utters” (the synonym for the word ‘says’). Oh, and I would be remiss if I didn’t mention that Ed would have benefited by adding a dash in the word “good-bye” which appears three times in his last line. What can I say? First and foremost, I’m an English teacher.

Bullying: Please Don’t Post This

Yesterday, I posted a blog entry about bullying and received a few responses, but many more people privately emailed me with messages that said, “Please don’t post this, but we are having a huge problem with bullying…” or “Please don’t post this. My daughter is a terrible bully and I don’t know what to do about it…” or “I wish I could tell my kid to just punch her bully in the face… Please don’t post this”.

So there is obviously a lot more to say about bullying, and I kind of wanted to continue the dialogue by proposing a few quick scenarios about physical bullying and how parents handle it. Stay with me:

Scenario 1:

Your child comes home from school and reports someone kicked her during recess.

What is your response?

Scenario 2:

Your child comes home from school and reports that she kicked someone during recess.

What is your response?

Is your response gender-based, which is to say, would you say something different to a son than you would to a daughter?