Hi Readers! I just got back to the United States and the first thing I saw at the airport was, naturally, People Magazine. This week’s cover story, “Deadly Bullying,” was prompted by the horrible case of Tyler Clementi. Tyler’s college roommate streamed live video of his sexual encounter with a man, leading Tyler to commit suicide.
I have no problem linking this horrible invasion of privacy — this absolute betrayal of human decency — to Tyler’s death. I do have a problem with calling it “bullying.”
Why? Because this was beyond bullying. It was a hate crime. By calling it “bullying” we are lumping together everything from a “Smelly belly!” taunt on the bus to an unconscionable act of cruelty. Not that it is easy to bear a “Smelly belly!” taunt. But that there is still a difference of magnitude. When we obscure that, childhood becomes even more worrisome to parents. All of us already worried about bullying are now going to worry about bullying…to death.
No one is in favor of kids (or anyone) hurting or humiliating each other. No one thinks bullying is a good idea. For the record, I hate bullies and bullying, want to see them gone — this is not a post that intends to dismiss the hurt that bullying can inflict. But the act of broadcasting a private sexual encounter is criminal. To call it “bullying” makes it sound childish, at the same time it also makes anything childish sound criminal.
The result is to make us parents ever more confused and terrified. As if we weren’t confused and terrified enough for our kids. — Lenore