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What “Making The Bus Monitor Cry” Says About Us As A Nation!

| June 25, 2012

Quite a time we are living in! In case you haven’t followed the story, four young boys in a town called Greece, N.Y. taunted a woman named Karen Klein, a bus monitor, made her cry and then had the audacity or stupidity to post a video they or someone else made of the incident on YouTube!

So the school board in Greece is considering ‘appropriate punishment’ for the boys and a number of people are demanding that the punishment be harsh. At first blush, it is an understandable reaction especially in light of fact that bullying is very much on the public’s radar these days and in this case the victim is an old woman.

And yet, from my perspective there is a lot more at stake here than determining an appropriate
punishment for four young boys. The fact is, if this event had occurred in some cultures, like the indigenous culture in Africa that Alice Walker describes in her book, We Are The Ones We’ve Been Waiting For, the boys would be brought into the center of a circle that would include all of the members of their tribe – in this case all the good citizens of Greece, N.Y. Everyone would then take turns naming all of the positive qualities these four young boys have and identifying all of the things they have done thus far in their lives that are good. Yes, these boys would be bombarded with love in an effort to heal them rather than following the current tradition of opening larger wounds by inflicting harsh punishment. Incidentally, according to Walker recidivism in this tribe is apparently almost non-existent. But that, as they say, is a horse of another name and a topic for another day.

For the moment what I believe is particularly important about this incident and something that we would be wise to stop and consider is that this incident speaks volumes about the public lunacy that passes as acceptable behavior in our nation today. It also speaks to the dangers of encouraging everyone to post videos on line – no matter how inane or hurtful they may be – in the hope of achieving instant notoriety. And it also speaks to the practices that go on in so many towns and cities across America that qualify as abuse and bullying by children and adults and that are now considered acceptable forms of behavior.

So let’s spend a little time looking at what I believe is one of the root causes of this incident. And frankly we don’t have to look very far to find it. Every day many of our national, state and local elected officials, a number of our corporate leaders, some of our wealthiest citizens, a host of our radio and television personalities, a large number of our major sports figures and so-called celebrities and many of us as parents, teachers, religious leaders and others advocate violence and prompt and condone one-upsmanship as the solution to most situations. Yes, thanks to those of us so called ‘adults’, the act of bullying and winning at any costs has, unfortunately, become not only acceptable, but apparently worthy of emulation.

Of course, there is another root issue involved here. As a culture we have arrived at a sad and
dysfunctional time in our history when we have stopped honoring and celebrating our elders. Yes, it appears that in our youth-obsessed and age-averse nation where terms like senior or elder have become pejoratives it is acceptable to openly display our disrespect for our older citizens. It is also appears to have become acceptable to threaten their well being by reducing or eliminating their Social Security and healthcare benefits and also threaten to increase the retirement age as if this is something of little consequence. And under the false guise of fiscal responsibility, it has also become acceptable to discriminate against older Americans in the workplace and in a number of other places in society as well.

So it should not come as much of a surprise to any of us that in such an atmosphere these four young boys would find it acceptable to taunt and torment an older woman who was attempting to care for their well being on a school bus. Nor should it surprise us that there is a public outcry for punishment. But I find myself wondering who among us should cast the first stone? In our youth-obsessed, age- averse, death denying culture where none of us are free from blame are there any of us brave enough to admit that the real culprits are not those young children but those of us who, as adults, have let things get so out of hand?

I also wonder if any of us will be courageous enough to suggest that we need to do something more and better to guide these and millions of other children and our nation back onto a course of human decency and sanity, of compassion and commitment to the greater good? I wonder if any of us will be wise enough to admit that we have to stop following the lead of those who have lost their way and instead start listening to that ‘still quiet voice within’ that advocates for greater integrity and personal responsibility. I wonder if any of us will suggest that if we are to have a future of any consequence we must start honoring the past, celebrating our elders and admitting that aging and dying are not accidents of nature but natural and essential stages in life.

So what do you think? What will it take for us to do the essential and necessary work of realigning our own thoughts, words and actions with our highest and best core values? What will it take to heal individual own wounds and to remember that the reason we are alive is to get better at being human so that incidents like the one that occurred on that school bus in Greece, NY will stop happening?

What were your thoughts on the incident?

George Cappannelli - Founder of AgeNationGeorge Cappannelli is co-Founder of AgeNation and President and CEO of The Information and Training Company. He is an world-class consultant, author and expert on change. Over the last 25 years he has worked with hundreds of leading organizations, the people who run them and hundreds of thousands of individuals in the public sector. He books include: Say Yes To Change, Authenticity, It’s About Time, I Dream of A New America and the soon to be released, Do Not Go Quietly, A Guide To Conscious Living and Wise Aging in the 21st Century. For more information on consulting and coaching services visit www.agenation.com/consulting or www.georgecappannelli.com.

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Category: Civic Engagement

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