I’m finally home from a longer-than-planned trip to London…imprisoned, so to speak, under the Ash Cloud. Yesterday, we relaxed and spent the afternoon watching the Old Movie Channel. I’m always interested when viewing those old films to see how our culture has changed. Drunkenness was once a source of much benign humor…”slapping the little woman around” brought no consequence. Thankfully, things have changed.
I think the Phoebe Prince case signals another swing on our cultural axis….very similar to what happened just a decade or so ago with drunk driving. Suddenly, a line was drawn in the sand, our tolerance level was breached…and our justice system signaled that the game had changed. Real prison terms were handed out; parents went to jail or were successfully sued for allowing minors to drink at their homes; our cultural free pass was revoked. It must have been surreal to those who first were convicted or bankrupted as this monumental reverse of fortunes landed squarely on them. “But, but…but…everyone drinks and drives. But, but…but all kids have beer at parties…”
But when society at large becomes largely repulsed by certain behaviors…consequences change…. and the changes and consequences MUST begin somewhere.
I think, in regard to the tolerance of school bullies…the six indicted Bullies of South Hadley High are going to find the New Way Forward begins with them. It commences with them paying a severe price for their relentless targeting of Phoebe Price. If they receive any slap on the wrist here…that will reverberate as our society condoning their alleged brutish behavior. It will mark a new low in even the basest level of decency we expect from ourselves and our children. These trials will trumpet a message across America. South Hadley High will either be steam cleaned by our justice system of the moral filth and crud festering in the alleged apathy of its staff and the alleged open cruelty of those accused…or it will be open season on your children and mine.
One message or the other…that’s it.
The question has arisen…will sullying Phoebe’s memory…be a winning strategy in court? Well, ask yourself this….if a drunk driver crosses the line on the Interstate and kills the occupant of another car….will any personal “defect” of the victim mitigate his punishment? If it can be proven that the Accused waged this relentless campaign against Phoebe…what exactly about Phoebe gives them the right to harass, to mentally torture, to verbally abuse …even to mock in death?
What kinds of people do we decide as a society are free targets for others to vent their rage upon? Please list the personality faults, the habits, the diagnoses, WHATEVER…that mitigate the alleged horrors these kids supposedly inflicted on Phoebe? Come on…tell us…so we can forewarn the weakest among us…just to whom we deny society’s protection. Because I want to know…don’t you? Am I or someone I love…on the Free to Torment List? Perhaps if Phoebe’s family understood that she did not QUALIFY for even the lowest standard of care by staff at South Hadley High or qualified as a Cruelty Target for her Classmates…they might have made choices that rescued her.
The trial of the alleged Bullies of South Hadley High will define all that for us.
Give us a List.
If there is any type of person that our society has selected as a communal punching bag at our public schools….they’ll tell us by letting these Bullies walk away with no severe consequence.
Yes, these trials will be a message.
But if there is no justice for Phoebe…the real cost will be paid in years ahead, in other schools, by other children….others on the list of acceptable Targets…The Unprotected.
Wait and see.