Over the last week I've seen the internet go mad with righteous, vengeful pride over a video. The video shows a teenage boy bodyslamming another boy. Reports vary from saying that the victim - the boy bodyslammed, who is at least half the size of the aggressor - suffers a grazed knee to concussion and a shattered shinbone. I'm not sure which of these is true but having seen the video I was sickened by the violence involved, by the crowd of children watching the violence and egging it on, and by the fact that it happened within a school, within school hours, and that the teachers didn't intervene.
Reading that paragraph, if you'd been given no back story, you'd think the bigger boy deserved the suspension he was given and you'd agree that violence of any nature is something that should be punished and stopped - that any aggressive attack such as this should result in his expulsion.
However the boy - called Casey Haynes - is being regarded as some kind of modern day hero. Why? Because his violence was in retaliation to a vicious, violent campaign of bullying that had - according to reports - been occurring for some time. The video shows - is being filmed TO show - the smaller boy, the bully, taunting Casey, dancing around him as he stands nervously against a wall, grinning to his 'audience' as he then punches Casey repeatedly in the face and torso. The children watching are clearly amused by it, were clearly expecting it and are filming it for its entertainment value. Casey has, apparently, been bullied for a long time within the school and this particular day is the day he 'stands up for himself' - he picked up the smaller boy after numerous punches to his face, he spins him over and slams him into the ground. The smaller boy does stand quickly, hobbling, and grins into the camera but I'm inclined to believe the reports that his leg is broken.
Because Casey is lashing out after a prolonged campaign of bullying the majority of people who have seen the video chant the same refrain "Go for it Casey", "Good lad Casey" and most seem to think his reaction was not only justified but positively heroic, to be applauded. That the bully deserved what he got.
Excuse me? A child - he is a CHILD - deserved to be bodyslammed, to potentially have his leg broken? I'm sorry - to the people who are saying that - you're idiotic. No child deserves violence - NO CHILD, NO PERSON. Bully, victim of bullying, whatever, nobody deserves that.
Don't get me wrong - I can see how and why Casey was pushed to that point - I can sympathise, empathise even, with the fact that he felt so scared, so cornered, so worn down by the bullying that he HAD to react and that reaction was the only way he could see out of his situation. I get it. Trust me, after years of relentless bullying throughout my school years I more than understand his despair. That doesn't in any way justify it, it doesn't make it acceptable, it does NOT make it heroic. He is a scared, angry child and he lashes out like scared, angry people do. That is not ok.
What is also not ok is that he was bullied for so long and to such an extent that he couldn't see any other way out. What is not ok is that the staff in the school were aware he was being buillied, and by whom, and that adequate steps weren't taken to protect him. What is not ok is that a crowd of children were cheering the bully on and filming physical abuse for entertainment, nor is it ok that our society still views violence in so many forms AS amusing.
What is not ok is the number of people who insist that they won't abide violence but who seem to think that reactionary violence, retaliation, is ok - is to be encouraged.
What is not ok is the number of comments I've seen from parents who've said "if that was my kid I'd teach him to hit them back too" and who would want their children to react to a bully with aggression. An eye for an eye? What a sickening concept.
I was raised to believe that violence is a bad thing and is something it is totally unacceptable to use in any situation. To me that includes if people are violent towards me. Hitting someone back is still hitting someone.
Don't get me wrong, I've done it - I've been pushed to that point and lashed out, I've lost my temper and lost control and hit someone - I don't think I'm a hero for doing so. I think it makes me as bad as the person who made me that angry or who I hit back.
It's the excuse domestic abusers use; "I would never have hit you if you hadn't made me so mad". That's not ok.
If I see children bullying my son - which I do, kids are kids and even just not wanting to play with him makes me mad - do I see red and tell him to kick them? Do I slap their mothers? No - I do what I was taught, and what I'm teaching my children - I walk away. I take my son and I walk away and I try to keep my temper. I have a nasty temper - I have the kind of temper that's led to me hiding in my room and smashing things, to me running to the woods and pulling down a small tree, to me screaming and swearing and threatening. It's not a nice temper, but I was told as a child that to lose it to the extent that I hurt someone else was totally unacceptable - so I learned not to. I learned as a toddler that hitting the people I was mad at was bad. In later years when I again lost that self control I didn't feel proud of myself, or justified, I felt sick. I felt sick and disgusted and sullied because I'd done what had been done to me - if it wasn't ok for that person to do it to me how was it going to be ok for me to do it to them?
That boy getting body slammed? He's a child. He's a cruel, vicious child - so are a lot of others. So were a lot of you, to someone, at school. How many of you can honestly say - even if you were the victim of hideous bullying - that you didn't pass some of that on? You never hit anyone? You never taunted anyone? You never called another kid names, teased them, upset them deliberately to feel better yourself? Didn't laugh at someone else getting bullied? Didn't run into the crowd chearing "fight, fight, fight" and get caught up in the thrill on the school field? If you tell me you did NONE of those things I will call you a liar because we all did. We all did, and it wasn't ok.