A few weeks ago, every evening on the 10 o’clock news—which around here is mostly just fugitive files—I watched a video clip from a security camera wherein a man was beaten, kicked, stomped on, and very nearly killed. The plea was for anyone who had any information about the aggressors or spectators to come forward, anonymously or not. I say spectators because this should not have been a difficult case to solve. At least 20 people circled the scene in the usually peaceful West Virginia parking lot, many complete strangers with iPods and cell phones out to catch it on camera.
I should be shocked. I’m not. We finally banned cell phones at school because so many fights were being instigated simply so others could upload them as amusement on Youtube. Usually, when I bring up an idea to my students, I’m impressed with their critical thinking, creativity, and compassion. But we have spent months discussing the implications of violence, bullying, and fighting. We have read articles, watched video clips, analyzed novels, listened to poems, discussed the news… you name it. They have cried as they have watched Syria burst into flames, even written anti-bullying articles… but they don’t get it. I have found myself standing in the middle of my classroom shouting, “Well, our favorite character died—isn’t it funny? Isn’t it just hilarious that everyone’s being cruel and hateful and destroying everyone else around them? Oh I hope there’s a lot of blood in the next scene and our next favorite character REALLY gets beat up and destroyed and mashed to a pulp—wouldn’t that be great?” My kindest, most diligent students have replied—“No, it’s just… different when it’s people at school. It’s funny then.”
So when I watch the news, and I see the skewed and sociopathic attitudes and actions that have outraged my friends across America, Australia, and everywhere in between, forgive me if I stay quiet. It’s not for lack of caring. It’s not even because I want us to “think about long term implications of incarceration” or anything like that. It’s just that, well, those could be my kids. And it breaks my heart.