Friday, June 22, 2012
Bus Monitor Bullies are not "Good Kids"
Every once in a while a news story on children behaving badly goes viral, and we're all given a sad bit of insight into the dark side of the human spirit and the stupidity of youth. The latest incident is the group of middle schoolers who taunted, ridiculed, threatened, and demeaned a 68-year-old bus monitor, and then posted a video of their exploits on Facebook. The public reaction - and outrage - has been swift and animated. Matt Lauer on the Today Show called the kids "little monsters," and a website originally created to raise money to send the woman on a vacation has, at last count, raised nearly a half-million dollars. While the school has yet to discipline the cruel, small-minded tweens, one father is reporting that his family is receiving death threats. Clearly, that has gone too far.
But I have to wonder about the father who says his son "made a mistake."
The bus monitor bullies did not make a mistake - they made a conscious choice to be cruel. They didn't accidentally insult this 68-year-old woman - they chose to be mean, they chose to psychologically brutalize a weaker person, they chose to victimize a human they saw as beneath them, they chose to be awful human beings. This father has said his "heart was broken" when he viewed the despicable behavior of his child. Sadly, he came face-to-face with his son's nature - and it's not a pretty picture. Some will take exception to my criticism of these boys - because they truly are young and naive and clueless about the pain they were causing. But these boys are mean and nasty individuals who, for some reason, lack any degree of empathy and the most basic level of human decency. They are not good kids.
The bus monitor bullies' incident reminded of another example of atrocious teen behavior that happened in the upper class Chicago suburb of Northbrook about ten years ago. A girls powder puff football game that was established as a ritual where the senior girls hand the school over to the juniors degraded into brutal hazing incident which resulted in girls being hospitalized with concussions and broken bones. In one of the more disturbing aspects of the incident, the younger girls had buckets and coolers filled with fish guts, fish blood, urine, and human feces poured over their heads. To add to the insanity, some of the girls were beat over the heads with the buckets, and some of the girls with concussions required up to ten stitches. It was a disaster of human behavior which generated the same sort of outrage as the bus monitor bullies. However, the aspect that really got under my skin was comments from some parents of the senior girls who said, "They're not bad kids - they're good kids who made a mistake."
Whoa, there, Nelly.
These are not good kids, and this was not a mistake. They are actually rather self-absorbed, obnoxious, cruel, manipulative, mean-spirited, and shallow young women. They are not nice people. They apparently take some sort of sick twisted pleasure from brutalizing others and seeing people suffer. They have no empathy and they have no self control. That is not, in my opinion, the behavior of a "good kid." And brutalizing a person is not a mistake. It is a representation of who you are - in your heart - even if that means you are simply an incredibly shallow and careless person. But that's who these girls are. So, let's not try to justify it. Let's not claim it was about the alcohol. Let's not pretend that mob action can be justified. That part of their nature is indefensible. And, while it does not represent the whole sum of their lives and personalities, it is a very significant part of who they are.
That said, I do not believe that these "children" are beyond redemption. People can change ... their behavior. They can be taught to control and manage that dark side. But that darkness is in their hearts, and it cannot be explained away or justified.