by Cody Lyon
Today's America is markedly different than it was when I was growing up in 1970's Alabama. While much among us has changed for the better, especially in the realms of official equality and social justice, meanness, as my Grandmother would have called it, still runs rampant throughout our society. One need only go online and read headlines from across the country that detail economic inequity, corruption and acts of brutal violence that have in many ways numbed our souls. Clearly, the biblical Golden rule that would have us do unto others, as we would do unto them, is still an afterthought, perhaps forgotten by many.
Compounding the daily litany of horror stories is a constantly arriving stream of evidence that we've all been living on borrowed dimes, that excess and corruption have run rampant in our financial foundations, that thousands have died in wars sold on misinformation and elements within our government are still under the influence of powerful self serving interests. All accounted for, then pondered, one worries about how best to change the direction of what some might call a wayward ways.
Perhaps, too, you wonder how best to change the minds of those still infected by narrow thinking, where self interest, misconstrued messages and fear distort calls for teaching tolerance, acceptance and respect in schools. Instead, you watch as those messages get spun as radical, sinful or part of some greater 'sexuality' associated agenda. It becomes further frustrating when you know those calls are in fact based in hope and faith that with each passing generation, decency becomes a mantle by which to live life, a community connected, where the goal is to treat one another with respect.
And then, hopes for the future become further frustrated as a headline reaches out grabs you, saddens, enrages, and then, sets you back.
According to published news reports, this past Monday, an 11-year-old Massachusetts boy, Carl Joseph Walker-Hoover, went to the top room at his family's home in Springfield, and hung himself. Reportedly, his Mother had said that he made this tragic decision after enduring the taunts and bullying by other children. His Mother says she'd plead with school officials at the New Leadership Charter School, where he'd tried to make friends to intervene. But instead, he was made fun of for his clothing, called "gay" and threatened with physical harm. He would have turned 12 on April 17.
The Gay Lesbian and Straight Education Network, or GLSEN, a national education organization that seeks to ensure safe learning environments for all students, says that Walker-Hoover is the fourth middle school aged child's suicide linked to bullying this year. GLSEN says a vast number of children who suffer at the hands of bullies, often encounter anti-gay taunting and often, physical violence. As most adults outside liberal enclaves in the North east or West coast know, being openly gay is sometimes not an option, unless one is truly brave. And, as research shows, society's often quiet acceptance of intolerance trickles down to children, where gay or f*g is often the insult de-jour, often meant to inflict the ultimate in hurt and pain.
No doubt, it's a cruel world out there and kids will grow into adults who will encounter meanness throughout their lives in one form or another. And certainly, calling on kids to stop calling one another names might be seen as, interference by adults, maybe even some sort of censorship by PC elitist forces that are out of touch with the more harsh realities on the ground in many communities throughout America, a land where bullying is the last thing on anyone's mind right now. But, perhaps the tragic death of Carl Joseph Walker-Hoover should give us all pause. As we ponder this sad news, maybe we ought to ask ourselves a question or two.
If we are to truly reconcile the tremendous positive social changes we've seen since my childhood with the contradictory rot of corruption that has permeated so much of our society, should we not demand that our future generations prepare for future challenges in institutions where respect, tolerance and the Golden rule is just that, a rule that is enforced? Does an adult demanding that a child treat his fellow child the way he or she would want to be treated smell of radicalism or part of an agenda? This is not about asking anyone to accept anything other than human decency.