And I can't wait until Saturday to comment because Teacher Steph, who's worked with teens for over thirteen years, is fucking livid. I hate watching kids get bullied. If I didn't live eight hours away, I'd be seeking those boys out and offering them dinner and a comforting word.
A few times, I've tweeted my adherence to what I call the Edgy Boi Law. Essentially, I give young people below a certain age more latitude to be stupid, insensitive, misguided, etc. because they haven't fully matured and are, biologically, more egocentric and more prone to poor judgment. Even the best, smartest kids fall prey to this adolescent frame of mind and need the occasional reminder that they are not the center of the universe. But the way you deliver these reminders is with care for their well-being in the context of a close relationship. You don't scream at them and call them names. You don't threaten them with physical harm. And you certainly don't plot to destroy their futures. Jesus H. Christ on a pogo stick! If I treated "my kids" this way (they're really my students, but I'm sure other teachers out there know what I mean), I'd utterly shatter their trust in me and would never again be able to gently rebuke them for the childish, ignorant things they sometimes say and do.
And just so we're clear, I teach primarily teens-of-color, so this Edgy Boi Law? I apply it to every kid, regardless of his or her shade.
So let's leave aside, for a moment, the fact that both the mainstream media and Twitter's baying mobs eagerly jumped on a narrative based on lies. Even if we stipulate that Nick Sandmann and the others did something wrong (which I categorically refuse to grant), the response to the incident on Friday has been wildly - wildly - out of proportion to the so-called "offense". Families have been doxxed and threatened, parents' workplaces have been called, the school has been forced to ask the police for protection, verified users on Twitter have shared lurid fantasies involving assaulting and even murdering minors -- and all of this is appropriate because Sandmann and his mates didn't have perfect control over their response to a guy beating a drum in their faces? This is not how you teach children. This is how you abuse them.
You are not a decent person if you are doubling down on this harassment. You are the dad beating his son bloody with a belt. And I see you.
And you know what I also see? I see a bunch of supposed "adults" acting out their unresolved adolescent resentments.
Hey, I was bullied too. As I suggested in the last post, I was a bit gender-queer before that became trendy (fortunately, this was the early 90's, so I was allowed to eventually become comfortable in my own skin). I also pursued bizarre obsessions (at least as far as my classmates were concerned), suffered from sensory issues, and was very much the teacher's pet. Consequently, I was targeted for ridicule from about fourth grade to early high school. The year Champion was the brand of t-shirt to wear, for example, I tried to follow the fashion, but the girls still teased me in the locker room after gym because the shirt my parents bought didn't fit their exacting specifications.
And even after this open harassment abated, I was never popular enough to be invited to the big parties, never pretty enough to be Homecoming Queen (not with my grunge-inspired shirts, boots, and Bajoran earring!), and never athletic enough to be a cheerleader. I was firmly a "freak"; my late high-school friends included LGB-identified kids, stoners, artists, and the one black girl who was persistently accused of "acting white" because she was an accomplished student.
Do I understand what it feels like to be othered by prettier, more popular peers? Hell yes! But you know what I didn't do? When I went to college and started my adult life, I didn't continue to project my childhood tormenters onto every frat boy, jock or sorority girl I met. I grew the hell up, made my peace with being Odd, and sought out people who would understand me for who I am. Perhaps even more importantly, I developed compassion for people on the other side of the social divide; I came to understand that even apparently "privileged" people have their anxieties and their crosses to bear because that's life - catastrophe contaminated by malevolence, to use another one of Dr. Peterson's formulations.
This is what all rational, healthy people do. They don't hold onto their victimhood in perpetuity. They rise above it. They cultivate the qualities of empathy and mercy. And they refrain from vilifying a schoolboy because he smiled wrong.