I had planned to write about something happier or more uplifting for my next blog. But, I tend to follow my muse where she leads me. The subject that she is screaming in my ear this morning is the story all over the news now about the 68-year-old grandmother/bus monitor who was mercilessly bullied by a pack of teenagers on a school bus. The video from a cell phone captured roughly ten minutes of their cruelty that included everything from insults and profanity to actually putting their hands on her. I’m shocked and sickened by it. It’s the kind of thing that knots around my insides and leaves me completely devastated about the things that society is capable of. That a group of kids could treat another human being as essentially non-human breaks my heart. It’s that kind of chilling marginalization or hate by one group against another that gives rise to the horrors that the human race is capable of, things like slavery, the holocaust and 9-11.
Notwithstanding the callousness of the teenagers on that bus, it’s difficult for me to believe that all of those kids are inherently evil even though their behavior certainly was. So, what is it that drove them to do it? The answer for me is two simple ingredients. A charismatic and powerful bully that lusts to be the center of attention, and a crowd of individuals either afraid to be left behind or placed in the bully’s cross-hairs. It’s human nature for us to want to go along in order to be included in “the” group. There is safety in numbers and it’s never fun to be unpopular. Having a scapegoat or target takes pressure off of the individuals in group from having to look inward as to how they are flawed or to blame for their own circumstances. But, there is a heavy price to pay for inclusion in that kind of group. One essentially has to sell a piece of their soul. Sell enough of your soul and pretty soon you won’t be you.
The good news from this story though is that people around the world are horrified by what happened. A new group is taking shape united by the message that this kind of behavior shouldn’t be tolerated, because it’s just plain wrong. Imagine a world where instead of human “herds” being held together by hate and disdain for outsiders, we become one that celebrates diversity and inclusion. I want to be part of a group that is loving, hard-working, accepting and won’t tolerate hate in any form. Call it naive, but that is my hope for the future of our human race. As for those kids, I do think they should be punished in such a way that they learn a lesson in how to be a better human being. I’m not talking about revenge. That never solves the problem. Revenge only adds fuel to the fire. I’m talking about extinguishing the fire by teaching them and others how to be brave enough to stand up to a bully, and not go along with a crowd when it means giving up your humanity in order to be included. Peace.