Commentary Forum, 5/15/12

Bullying Starts at The Top

By Marianne Stanley

When things get this turned-around-upside-down-and-backwards, it’s time to stop for a while so that we can sit down and do some serious thinking about where we are and what got us here.

We jail the harmless in the form of pot smokers and peaceful protestors while allowing the criminal minds that rule some of our largest corporations and entities, from the banks to the pharmaceutical companies to law enforcement, to literally get away with theft, assault and even murder.  Arrest, jail time for these purveyors of human misery?  Never!

The message is clear, even to our nation’s kids: money is power and power is everything.  Our kids see that ruthlessness seems to be a common trait of the powerful.  They see it when banks rob people of their lifelong savings and throw them out of their homes dispassionately.  They see it when pharmaceutical companies knowingly market deadly drugs for profit, as Merck did with Vioxx, a drug that has reputedly killed half a million of us in just five years.  They see it when the coal and gas industries drill and frack our Earth’s heart out, polluting and destroying her ability to continue to provide for us.  They see it when we put more non-threatening people in our jails than even Russia and China did at the height of their dictatorships.  They see it when our once-docile and helpful police become commandos bearing shields and body armor against unarmed and peaceful Americans.

We market violent movies and video games to our kids, teaching them to kill quickly and without remorse in order to win the game.  “Grand Theft Auto” makes a game out of stealing cars, shooting police and brutalizing women.  Television is full of all sorts of twisted acts of violence and of using and abusing others for selfish reasons.

Belligerence rather than cooperation is the new norm.  Coldness replaces empathy, compassion and fellow-feeling.  Conscience has been run out of town on a rail as the Wild West shoot ‘em up mentality takes hold once again.   Egotism has run amok.  The guy with the biggest gun and the baddest attitude wins.  Want a visible, perfect example?  The guys in power in our government have money, so why worry about those who don’t?  Policies that cost mainstream America its jobs, homes and Middle Class don’t hurt those at the top, so why worry?  Acting for others, for the common good?   Gone.   As our own one-time VP candidate said, “Don’t retreat.  Reload.”  What is this but a call for even more uncivilized behavior and lack of human decency?   And we fault our kids?   Please!

Our TV and radio pundits have crafted nastiness and lies into high art.  Their vitriol and uncontrolled rantings and ragings spill over into society at-large, modeling to youth a perfect example of how to reach new lows rather than exhilarating new highs as human beings.   In the far-right reactionary camp, name-calling, hatefulness, judgment and intolerance have been normalized.  Should we really be so surprised when our youth follow our lead? 

What ever happened to the teaching and modeling of virtues and values?  What has happened to self-control, manners, civility and self-discipline?  Instead, we see and hear grown men throwing tantrums into their microphones or on camera as though it’s normal and perfectly acceptable.  Well, it isn’t.  It is hurting others, like Darnell Young and oh-so-many others in our schools and all over this land.

Shame seems to be a thing of the past … sadly.  Now, more than ever, we need it as a fitting feeling after doing something mean, heartless and unwarranted towards our fellow man.  Why did Darnell’s mother send him to school with a stun gun?  Because no one responded to her ten prior pleas for help from the school to stop the assaults on her son.

Yes, Darnell violated school policy by bringing the stun gun.  But didn’t the school first violate its anti-bullying policy and its duty to protect its students?  Why has the school failed to take full responsibility for Darnell’s act of desperation?  Again, it is a great example to kids of how easy it is to punish the weak and hurt, while letting the big and powerful off the hook completely.  Focus is intentionally diverted from the “bad guys” to the victim. Darnell isn’t the one who should have been expelled; the bullies should have.  But this is what we do when society is turned-around-upside-down-and-backwards.  It’s time we see this … and then fix it.

Marianne Stanley is an attorney, college professor and former journalist who believes many of our nation’s ills could be cured if our children were taught critical thinking skills beginning at the elementary level and continuing through middle and high school. She can be reached at


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