Yesterday, via Facebook, I became aware of this campaign. I don’t recommend watching the youtube video because it is awful. It’s shows a 63 year old bus monitor being horribly verbally abused by the middle school aged students on the bus. The positive side of the story is that well beyond the $5,000 fundraising goal has been met, last I was aware it was about $327,000.

Through comments on the fundraising page and various Facebook statuses I heard cries for this issue to be dealt with immediately by school officials and children’s parents. There was a lot of anger toward these children and their actions. Calls for punishment in a long list of shame creating ways. Heck one person even announced had these been her children they would not be able to sit down for a week.

It is in my opinion predictable that the children in this situation would be vilified. That there would be a whole lot of adults sitting around talking about how disrespectful youth today are and how these children should be punished to the fullest.  Whether it be through the removal of “privileges” or the application of physical violence. Either way, it would be set up to showcase the horrific behavior of these children by adults perched a top their high horses.

But wait just one goddamn minute here! Who is going to step up to the plate and take responsibility for these children? Who’s gonna take a long hard look at the world around them and own up to the fact that we are failing our children miserably if they are capable to this level of verbal abuse and bullying. This isn’t playground bullying, this is child to adult and this woman has no way out.

I understand why no one came to her defense. I will shamefully admit I was a silent voice in the crowd of bullying throughout my entire schooling. The social ramification for me would far out way any courage I could muster to defend the person who was being targeted. I would silently exhale a feeling of gratitude that it was not me receiving the assault. It was survival of the quietest and most conformed that won out in the ranks of the school hallways.

I’m not sure of the bus drivers location or awareness in this situation so have little to say about his or her ability to intervene and have the whole thing shut down. For all I know after the 9 minute video he/she did in fact come to the woman’s defense.

Non the less, it is such a wider issue here. It’s about finding our way to the heart of the matter. The understanding of how children could get to a point where a group verbal abuse upon an elderly woman, was sport or at the very least amusing.

I have to think it starts with the general disrespect that is placed on children from their very infancy. Think about it for just a moment. There are very few places where children in our world are welcomed as they are are, full of energy, mistakes, wobbly edges and unexplored areas. For the most part they are shushed, shunned and expected to for go the freedom of childhood in order to be quiet, line up and stay out of the way of these very important grow up things the world is busy doing.

So if you spend your days always having to mute who you are. Receiving constant reminders that you are not good enough, or quiet enough or worth the smallest amount of respect it becomes obvious that out of a sheer desire to survive you will pounce on the weakest in the tribe.

Since I have brought up the topic of respect I will toss out another bit of this that drives me to the brink of craziness regularly. The common theme that “children today have not respect for anyone.” I hear this, I read this and I am stunned. How the hell are children suppose to develop a sense of respect for others when they are never shown a simple ounce of respect themselves. They are told when to eat, when to sleep, when to learn, when to play, when to get outside for some exercise.  A child is every bit a human being and thus in my opinion worthy of the same amount of respect I would hand to my grandmother.

I have gone on a huge rant here. And I thank you for staying with the post to this point. You may have gathered children and their rights are a passion of mine. My heart breaks for every last child on that bus. For the moments in their lives when they have felt so weak and powerless that they had to completely disconnect from their sense of right and wrong in order to survive. I wish for them a lifetime of healing from the hands that were laid upon them simply for making a mistake. I want for a world that looks upon adult actions before they vilify the children who are simply modeling what they have seen happening in their lives.

A parent using power over their child to modify their behavior, can through a child eyes, be the same as a child using power over another to bully them. I believe if a child feels powerless in the places they are suppose to feel safest, they will indeed seek out power in other situations. A child who feels hopeless that they will ever be loved, will disconnect from the very heart of who they are. And when there is no connection to the feeling place, the ability to hurt others in heartbreaking ways becomes possible.

When I know these things I can see how a this entire bus incident could happen. I can have compassion and understanding for all the victims here. The woman, the children and those who silently watched. It breaks my heart to a million little pieces to know how this could happen. Yet, only through seeing the broken pieces of societal beliefs about the raising and respecting of children can we heal in to a framework of connection and support.

It would be my wish that this situation be an eye opener for every last person involved, from the school, to the parents, to the people donating on line. To take a look at the children in their lives. And ask this one important question, do your actions toward youth directly (not indirectly) translate to the way you wish for them to treat others?