Bullying and hazing incidents have been on the American mind of late, largely due to an epidemic of teen and young adult suicides. Suicides, which are attributed to depression and misery brought on by the way the deceased are tormented by classmates. Many schools behave in a manner that seems to side with the bully, when bullying and hazing is reported, often the victim is punished or ostracized for reporting the bullying in the first place. At least, until someone dies.A jury recently found Dharan Ravi, a former Rutgers University student, guilty of invasion of privacy and bias intimidation charges, deciding that he was motivated by homophobia when he streamed video of his roommate’s intimate encounter with another man. Tyler Clementi, committed suicide by jumping off the George Washington Bridge in September of 2010. Dharan Ravi who will be sentenced May 21, 2012, also faces the possibility of deportation as a result of his criminal conviction. The trend in the media (largely by LGBT organizations, and celebrities) is to assure the young people being bullied is “that it gets better”. And while that is good advice, some enforcement of basic laws that would deter that kind of behavior might help too.
The thing that always takes me aback is how shocked the public is when this type of behavior is exposed. Our culture is riddled with unfair practices and power struggles, it just makes sense to me that the youngest of us would model and emulate that behavior. Look at the way our world really works. The success of the strongest and most ruthless are praised from the football field to the boardroom. The continuation of sexual harassment and pay inequality can be no surprise, when the office workers and executives come from colleges where harassment and rape are prevalent and tolerated. Whistle blowers in some recent hazing scandals involving military academies and fraternities are derided as weak and unacceptable sore losers. Captains of finance and industry, even the men occupying the upper echelons of our government, are educated and nourished in the notorious hazing-prone environment of Greek fraternities, continuing the tradition of institutionalized bullying! Is it likely that very many of these men, magically leave these kind of behaviors behind? They’ve been taught that they are special, above the law, the rules don’t apply to them, and their continued success, wealth and lack of real consequences when they break the law reinforce that belief. Kids are not unintuitive, they learn this way of life from their elders. We know the bully learns that by diminishing another, he (or she) increases their status among the rest of their contemporaries. This kind of social battery is evident all thru-out our personal histories and nation’s culture. Which means, we all ultimately bear responsibility for allowing the strong to hurt the weak in our midst. Maybe we can change this flaw in our national psyche with this generation of schoolchildren. Perhaps if the bystanders to bullying, as well of the victims of hazing and harassment were encouraged to protest such behavior, and learn that they have a right to fight back, maybe this one long standing American institution might die out.