So I finally watched that video of the bus monitor being bullied and abused by the punk-ass junior high kids. It was, to understate, painful.
It also resulted in a fascinating conversation over last night’s dinner. We were at my sister-in-law’s apartment, eight of us gathered around a table eating chicken parm and debating whether bullying is a rite of passage, an inevitable thing we all do—or mere specific-to-a-certain-type-of-kid idiocy.
As the points were made, back and forth, back and forth, I couldn’t help but think of Lakeview Elementary School in the early 1980s—a blacktop school yard, a gaggle of kids and a boy named Frankie C.
All schools, I believe, have at least one Frankie C. He was the “special” kid; the one who was removed from class, midway through the day, to see some sort of specialist. He was the kid who was delayed—in speech, perhaps, or maybe physical ability. In this case, Frankie C. was (by conventional standards) a mess. He was a tall, goofy kid with an ugly orange winter jacket and slurred, delayed speech. He wasn’t graceful with his words, and probably couldn’t run 100 yards without stopping. I can clearly hear Frankie C.’s voice in my head as I sit here. It’s almost a howl, fighting back at the group of classmates who made it their duty to remind him how [retarded/stupid/worthless] he is. They yanked his jacket. They kicked his rear. They tripped him and poked him and goaded h
In my defense, I was not one of the kids who made fun of Frankie C. Why? I’m not sure—just didn’t seem right. However, my defense is awfully thin. I didn’t stand up for Frankie C., either. Hell, I didn’t even come close to standing up for Frankie C. I just sat there and watched; maybe even chucked a bit. I was your typical undeveloped coward, aware something wasn’t right, yet scared shitless of having the pounding turned my way.
I did nothing.
Every so often, I think about Frankie C. Where is he right now? Who is he right now? Is he an accountant or a lawyer? Is he as plumber? A dentist? Unemployed and living at home? Happy father of six? I think about the abuse he endured, and wonder how it impacted him? Did the torment of childhood damn him to a less happy adulthood? And what of the primary abusers? Do they wonder about Frankie C.? Do they feel the guilt? The shame? Have they ever watched their own children be picked on? Does that jar something in them? Cause them to shudder and shake and hurt?
In case you haven’t heard, the four kids involved in assaulting the bus monitor have been severely punished. They’re all suspended for an entire year—which means they’ll be spending the 2012-13 academic year with different classmates, at a different facility. Some have said that’s too little; big deal … a different school, but still school. How about probation, or community service, or … or … something?
Personally speaking, I believe no punishment was truly needed. I mean, clearly something had to be done because, well, something had to be done. Sometimes, however, damnation is the ultimate hardship. Those four boys have ruined their reputations. They are sinister outcasts, slammed across the internet, deemed evil horrors from here to China. Hell, the above video has been viewed more than eight million times. Eight. Million. I can think of few things worse than soiling your family’s name and reputation, and right now four families are soiled. For the next, oh, decade … two decades … three decades, relatives of the boys will be introduced the people. There will be a pause, a retreat, then a whisper—“You know who that is, right? The uncle of that boy who once …”
There will be no escape.