There has been a lot of talk in the news recently about bullying. After the death of Tyler Clementi, Ellen DeGeneres released a poignant video plea for bullied kids to look for help. Bloggers have lit up the blogosphere with heartfelt stories of their own experiences as victims of bullying. Too many of us have our own stories of being afraid of what cruelty the next school day had in store for us. We as adults know that bullying hurts. We know that bullying can crush a child's spirit and damage their psyche, and in the worst cases, lead them to such despair that death becomes a welcome release. Yet the bullying continues. Bullies have moms and dads, they have peers and caregivers. They have teachers. They have someone in their lives who knows what they are doing to others, and yet for some reason these children carry on their campaigns of cruelty against others. Why?
Any question involving the "why" of the human psyche could never be answered in a textbook, much less a blog. But I do have one observation: there are an awful lot of bullies out there in the grown-up world, too.
Children learn by the examples they see. Moms and dads, take a look at yourselves: What is the example you are setting for your children?
I need to turn to another tragedy to make my point. On Wednesday, October 6, 2010, an infant boy named Joshua died. He had hypoplastic left heart syndrome, meaning that the left side of his heart was critically underdeveloped. At a few days old, Joshua underwent a circumcision - which, right or wrong, is an extremely common procedure in the United States - and he died when his heart gave out less than a day later. Joshua's mother blogged about the circumcision experience, how there was some trouble with stopping the bleeding, and that she questioned whether circumcision was the right decision. Hours later, his heart stopped beating. Despite aggressive efforts to resuscitate him, he passed. The horror of infant death is something that anyone with a shred of humanity couldn't wish upon another human being.
Yet when Joshua's mother reached out to her blog readers on the Internet, along with wave after wave of sympathy and shared sorrow, she received attacks. Horrible attacks. Sickening attacks, from self-proclaimed "intactivists" - those who strongly believe that circumcision is an unnecessary act of cruelty.
Words like these:
“My heart sure doesn't break for her. On the contrary, she got exactly what she deserved. If every baby who was mutilated died, it might put a stop to the practice. This so-called tragedy is good publicity for outlawing genital mutilation. I hope she feels guilty for the rest of her miserable life & my sympathy for her is ZERO.”
My God. I can't imagine having that sort of venom for another human being; particularly not one who is in the throes of the deepest despair and most horrific suffering imaginable. And that wasn't a rogue comment. The Twitterverse and intactivist sites were abuzz with so many more, but I don't have the stomach to reprint them here.
Is that not bullying in perhaps its most extreme form?
Moms, do you love your children so much that you won't circumcise them, but you don't love them enough to be a good example of a decent human being? Is that really your message? Is that what your children see when they look to you?
I'm not against the intactivist message at all (and I truly realize that not all intactivists are behind this type of bullying), but there is a time and a place to share a lesson, and this wasn't it. The only thing that needed to be shared with this mother is compassion and sympathy for her loss.
May Joshua's mother find peace in this dark time.