Another Child Dies by Suicide: The Conversation We Should Be Having
Another child died by suicide last month. Her name was Rebecca Sedwick and she was twelve years old. This is being covered in the news because of the arrests of two children who bullied Rebecca. The usual media hype is occurring during which parents and school authorities are accused and later defend themselves and on and on. Something is very wrong in our world right now. I think we are asking the wrong questions and debating the wrong points. How do we have such little regard and respect for each other? Because these are kids, there is a tendency to discount incidents of bullying with statements like “Kids are cruel.” I’ve stated before the ways that bullying is so different today than in any previous generations. Cyberbullying is permanent, as all of our statements and photos online are, and it follows you 24/7. Changing schools as Rebecca did will not eliminate the problem. The internet makes it incredibly easy to “say” things we might not say to the individual in person. I think the conversation we should be having lies beyond these details.
Are kids who bully looking for connection? I don’t mean to suggest that the person who bullies is looking for connection with the target of their harassment. There is something inherent in gossip and specifically in talking negatively about another that will bond you to a person. We’ve probably all engaged in this activity at some level without even thinking about it. Complaining in general, having a problem in common with someone, is a point of connection for us. It’s too hot or too cold or that co-worker is annoying—these are complaints that we have in common with others. In the same way, if you and I talk negatively about a third party, we will get closer. We will build our relationship at the expense of leaving someone else out. Obviously, this is something that becomes out of control in a bullying situation, but I think it’s worth thinking about this issue from the perspective of the child who bullies as well as the child who gets bullied.
We clearly have a disconnect going on in our society today. One of the girls charged with aggravated stalking in the case of Rebecca’s death acknowledged in an online post that yes, she bullied Rebecca and she killed herself and “IDGAF.” If you’re like me, and don’t know what this means, let me decode it for you to the extent that I can. It stands for “I Don’t Give A F***.” This is heartbreaking. Is this a reflection of a lack of understanding of what a loss of life actually is or a complete disrespect for another human being? Lately, I’ve been wondering how the Golden Rule works if you have no empathy. That is to say, it might be ineffective to ask the girl who bullied, “How would that feel if someone did that to you?” if her orientation to life is “IDGAF.” To say, “This is a girl just like you with a family who had a life ahead of her, and now she’s gone,” might not mean anything. We are disconnected from ourselves and from each other. This is the fundamental problem, in my opinion. Technology is not going away, and, in and of itself, is not a bad thing. Of course, we could continue to get mired in the issues of monitoring what our kids do online, the school’s responsibility, is it right or wrong to arrest these girls, and on and on. Instead, let’s have a conversation about what is really going on here.
“If we have no peace, it is because we have forgotten that we belong to each other.” Mother Teresa