Sympathy for the Devil

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On the CBC radio news on my way home, they were covering a large anti-bullying rally at a Toronto school.  The kids seemed enthusiastic, parroting the pledge that was presented to them.  I hope they were genuinely getting on board, but the issue of bullying seems to be a cause celebre at the moment.  I hope that it’s not just the flavour of the week.

Despite my work experience to the contrary, I think it’s generally human nature to try to be kind.  Most kids, I think, are basically empathetic little critters.  They try, they’re as good as they can be.  There’s always a few bad apples, but on the whole, I’d like to think most kids are pretty good about being decent to each other.

My question is, are there MORE bad apples now than there were when we were growing up?  Lots of us experienced bullying, I know I did.  Being different (in my case, being a foot taller than everyone else, and an academic geek) equaled being picked on, to some extent.  There were hard days.  Eventually, I found my groove amongst my peers, when I got a little older, but grades 5 through 8 were pretty rough at times.  I had some friendless days and some tearful nights.

I think, though, that it’s getting worse.  Not necessarily that there are MORE bad apples, but that they are worse apples than they were 35 years ago.  Pressure to conform, and punishment for not conforming, is worse than ever before.  It’s not okay anymore to form your own little geek clique if you don’t fit into the mainstream.  It’s not okay to be overweight, or too short, or too tall, or too gay or too – anything!  I remember being teased, but not tortured.  Not relentlessly harrassed until I couldn’t function anymore, couldn’t go to school anymore, or didn’t event want to LIVE anymore.

But it looks like this is what it has come to.

I know there’s another side, that we learn what we’re taught at home.  I know the kids doing the bullying are most likely victims themselves.  I know all that, okay?

But enough is enough.  I think the tide has turned towards sympathy for the perpetrator.  These kids NEED to be expelled.  They need to face the consequences of their actions.  Where’s the sympathy for the victims?

I’m unapologetically all about zero tolerance on this one.  Harassment is a crime.  Assault is a crime.  By allowing kids to get away with these things as youth, we’re not doing them any favours as adults.

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