We act so astonished. We wring our hands and shake our heads. How can this happen again, we ask?
Bailey O’Neill passed away one day after his 12th birthday. He was not the victim of childhood cancer. He was not involved in a fatal car crash. He died from injuries sustained on the playground at his school. The fight was caught on video, including the blow that sent him into a medically induced coma. Some claim he was bullied. The authorities say they are looking into whether it was an act of bullying or an altercation. Really? Is there a difference? Will his parents’ pain lessen if it is proven to be one or the other? Why are we even discussing this?
We are caught up in the controversy for a very simple reason. Our children see us bully one another on a daily basis. It is part and parcel of American life. It is ingrained in our culture.
We call one another names for having different religious faiths. We look down our noses at those who don’t sport the prestigious addresses we do. We don’t speak to people we aren’t supposed to “know.” And if you don’t hold the same political beliefs as those in your circle, watch out.
Our elected officials are reprehensible to one another. They have absolutely no regard for those on the opposite side of the aisle, and have no reservations getting in front of the cameras and saying so. Sports stars are in the news everyday…they kill their wives, girlfriends, and sometimes themselves. Entertainers make the headlines for beating up their girlfriends. A radio announcer bullies a young women who is brave enough to testify before Congress and calls her a “slut.”
And we are actually surprised by the fact that our children bully one another to the extremes they do. We scratch our heads and ask why. What the hell are we thinking?
This tendency won’t let up until we stop. Children will continue to bully, harass and hurt one another as long as they see us doing the same thing to our adult counterparts.
We have to stop. We must learn how to agree to disagree without hating and name-calling. We must brand cultural and social snobbery what it is — abuse.
Adulation of those who hurt others to elevate themselves is a pathetic narrative on American ideals. That is the reason Bailly O’Neill won’t be around for his 13th birthday — the only reason.