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No less tragic than the Santana shootings.
March 12, 2001 11:03 PM   Subscribe

No less tragic than the Santana shootings. I hope this poor girl's tormentors spend the rest of life asking themselves "What would Jesus have done -- and why didn't I?"
posted by kindall (33 comments total)

 
So, somebody please explain to me why I'm wrong for rejecting organized religion part and parcel.

This article was as excellent in its descriptiveness as it was infuriating.

rcade and I sparred several months ago about the Cassie Bernall "story", and he claimed that it was inspiring because Christians stood up for their beliefs (although I argued that it was suspect to cloak yourself in a story of questionable merit to achieve that end).

Now we see the opposite, and the most insulting deed of all: the inability to accept those of differing beliefs.

Somebody please fill the space below with a 500 word essay explaining what kind of threat this girl's interest in reading about Wicca and wearing so-called "Gothic" clothing posed to the other students.

And tell me why nobody intervened. "Chanting" suggests that the taunting was fairly open and commonplace. Tell me that coincidentally no teachers were around to hear it. Tell me there was nothing they could have done to prevent this.

Then tell me how sorry the students who bear a measure of responsibilty for this truly are.
posted by ethmar at 6:16 AM on March 13, 2001


This has less to do with organised religion as it does with kids who are just insensitive and unthinking -- and a school which did nothing to stop what was going on.

It also speaks volumes about parents who speak in easy platitudes but don't ever teach their kids the basic nuts and bolts about simple human kindness. Damn the lot of them; they deserve it.
posted by Dreama at 6:25 AM on March 13, 2001


I think the phrase, "If they would have understood, then you would be alive. Love, everyone." explains how sorry they are: that is to say, not at all. They? Whatever happened to "we"?
posted by dagnyscott at 6:44 AM on March 13, 2001


How about, "What would any sane person do?" It doesn't really take a supernatural being's example to not drive a person to suicide.
posted by Doug at 7:13 AM on March 13, 2001


rcade and I sparred several months ago about the Cassie Bernall "story", and he claimed that it was inspiring because Christians stood up for their beliefs ...

I think you're misremembering my comments in that thread, though I certainly appreciate the shout out.

I never claimed the Cassie Bernall story as personally inspirational. I just understand why her parents would spread the story that she was killed for stating her belief in God, even after serious doubts were raised about the story.

The story was in all the early press accounts, thousands of people were inspired by it, and it gives Bernall's parents an opportunity to attach some meaning to her death.

How many parents would come out later and say, "Sorry -- it turns out our child's death was completely meaningless. Those of you who were inspired by her alleged courage should stop feeling that way as soon as possible."
posted by rcade at 7:45 AM on March 13, 2001


Caught me pulling things off the top of my head. Nice suit, Mayor!

But back to the matter at hand. It can be said that this girl committed suicide merely because she was being taunted mercilessly, which of course, the counter-argument may be: welcome to adolescence.

And it could be argued that she killed herself because she had deep psychological problems that were not caused by fellow students, only exacerbated, but hey, that's not their fault that she was f'd up in the head.

However as Christian students in Santa Fe, Texas argue their right to free religious expression is being denied because broadcasting prayer over the school loudspeakers is unconstitutional, I see this story as yet another example of "Christian" students being profoundly unwilling to accept beliefs (or lack therof) that differ from their own.

I do concede up front that perhaps these students weren't exactly devout [anything], and only taunted with the intent of well, taunting. But this doesn't excuse the school faculty from turning a blind eye to this.

How would the reaction to this story had differed had this girl been mercilessly taunted with chants of "Wicca kicks ass", and this girl was a devout Baptist?
posted by ethmar at 8:13 AM on March 13, 2001


The article makes clear that there are some students doing the persecuting, some being persecuted, and a large number doing neither who simply keep their heads down. (And this agrees with my own personal experience as one of the persecuted.) Snipers shoot at people who stand up, and kids have a strong instinct for self preservation.

It was clear to me that the yellow sticky referring to "they" was written by one of the kids in the third group, who had observed what was going on, felt powerless to stop it, and knew that trying to do so would draw fire without any good effect. If so, "we" would not have been correct in context. Which doesn't take away from the clear regret of the note. I think it was genuine and touching, and I don't feel any recrimination towards the author.
posted by Steven Den Beste at 8:16 AM on March 13, 2001


This is so sad yet so illustrative of the evils of fundamentalism. As a Christian and a minister I abhor this kind of beliefism. What a person believes or, indeed, chooses not to believe is as unique and varied as snowflakes.

None of us should stand in judgement of another for their beliefs. Being Christian, Jewish, Buddhist, Muslim, achiest or anything else for that matter does not make us superior or inferior to anyone else. In my belief system I am told by my God not to judge, and that each person will be judged by their fruits.

Different beliefs are for different people. I know from personal experience that Buddhism, Taoism, Wicca, Qabalism are not for me. They are not systems which apply readily to my personality and experience. I've learned from them, and each in it's way brought me to my current strongly held faith. But the path I'm on may very well differ from the one others are on.

As a minister I preach to those on the same path, and we attempt to understand our place in our faith and on our road. I can't navigate others paths for them, and they can't for me. Perhaps we would all be better off if we accepted this.

posted by revbrian at 8:46 AM on March 13, 2001


Thanks revbrian.
posted by ethmar at 9:50 AM on March 13, 2001


ethmar:
"How would the reaction to this story had differed had this girl been mercilessly taunted with chants of "Wicca kicks ass", and this girl was a devout Baptist?"

If this is really a matter of religious nit-picking rather than the fact that she was "taunted mercilessly"? This kind of taunting is not a stranger to suicides such as this one. Suicide victums have been taunted about their sexuality. In the case of Charlie Hyde, he was taunted and blamed for the deaths of individuals from a boating accident. In one individual's words, "Faced with the taunting of my peers and overbearing parents I decided that suicide was the only way."

For Tempest's case, I personally do not believe religious differences was not the reason she chose to commit suicide. From the trend in teen suicides, there are far too many variations of taunting that may lead to suicide.
posted by crog at 10:05 AM on March 13, 2001


It also speaks volumes about parents who speak in easy platitudes but don't ever teach their kids the basic nuts and bolts about simple human kindness. Damn the lot of them; they deserve it.

Maybe it's just me, but it seems like a person who says "Damn the lot of them; they deserve it" is the last person to teach children about "simple human kindness."

More generally, I've noticed a distinct (not universal) trend around here in posts regarding tragedies involving children. Person A: victim; person B: evil perpetrator. Life is rarely that simple.

A major part of compassion is that it should extend to everyone. Yes, we have to hold killers responsible for their actions. But we need not ignore the fact that whenever one child kills another, two lives are ruined. Surely we can feel sorry for both people.

In this case, a girl was taunted and killed herself. It's a terrible thing, especially when I think of my own daughter, who has an interest in Wicca and sometimes gets teased about it (not to the same extent, and she doesn't wear all black-- yet). And it was wrong for the other children to tease her. But does anyone really think that these children had any idea (or, indeed, could have had any idea) that their teasing would lead another child to take her own life? Can we not empathize with their pain. Have we not all done something callous that resulted in someone else feeling more pain than we expected?

My twelve year-old is a terrific kid, but she frequently does things that show a lack of judgment. She doesn't think through the consequences of her actions. That doesn't make her a bad person: it makes her a kid. When she does something she shouldn't, I still hold her accountable: how else will she learn? But I also let her know that I love her. Unconditionally.

Sometimes unforeseeable things happen. Then people feel the need to assign blame. I hear people blaming the parents. But in the recent cases, there's no indication that the parents were anything more than very busy or slightly careless. Who could anticipate that such a thing would lead a child to kill another? In any case, there are many, many causes.

Take the case of Andy Williams. I've heard people saying the parents are responsible. Andy's father moved with him across the country in large part because Andy was persecuted in Maryland. He was trying to do what was best for his son.

From the end of the Post article:
Parents flocked to the school. Kellie Chemielewski and Vanessa Willis, taking refuge in a nearby pizza restaurant, were surprised to see Charles Williams, Andy's father, rush in, worriedly looking for his son.

"Where's Andy?" he asked the girls.

They shifted uncomfortably in their seats.

"Well," said Willis, "he's with the police."



I feel very sorry for anyone who can't feel some compassion for that dad. Or for any of the people whose lives have been irrevocably hurt by any of the recent tragedies. For those who are so quick to judge, I hope that none of your kids ever does something really bad.


posted by anapestic at 10:46 AM on March 13, 2001


The reason that story disturbed me was not because of the underlying religious persecution issue, but because kids can be so mean to each other as to cause suicide, school shootings, and other assorted acts of violence. I just don't get how they can be that cruel to one another without realizing it. Sure, I have been on both sides of my share of teasing, but nothing remotely comparable to what these kids are doing to each other these days.
The other thing that got me about this story is that the young girl took her own life. She didn't go to school with a gun and open fire. She hung herself! Every time I hear about another school shooting I always think something along the lines of, "I can't believe these kids are taking guns to school and shooting each other. Where are they getting the guns? Is their family a bunch of complete and utter morons?! It may be hard to identify with your kids, but they're getting guns, and taking them to school. HELLO!" Somehow, I never stop to think about why they ended up doing what they did, because, c'mon, they just killed other kids, and that's by far worse than any teasing. Right? Well, without following that line of thought too much further...

This girl was teased, mocked, ridiculed, etc. to the point that she skipped right over killing her tormentors (and numerous innocent bystanders no doubt) and just decided she wanted no more of it. In some ways, I have to admire her. It sounds sick, but hear (read) me out. If she had somehow obtained a gun and gone to school and opened fire on everybody, or even selectively shot one or two students, she would have been vilified while the truly guilty became victims. By taking her own life, she showed everyone who the real victims are. (There was another thing, but it slipped my mind while I was typing this, dang it.)

Straying a little bit to the more general topic of suicide...
I always thought that people who commit suicide feel that they have nothing left to live for. In many cases though I'm noticing that there is someone, or several someones, that love and care for them, and they know it. So if they know that they are loved by someone, that someone cares about them, why do they do it? That is something I'll just never understand.
posted by GnuBee at 11:01 AM on March 13, 2001


Christianity didn't kill this girl, and ranting and raving about fundamentalism and how bad religion is is completely missing the point.

Kids will pick on other kids for any possible reason. When I was in grade 6 (I don't remember age, but it's around that preteen area), I had a mechanical pencil, one of the ones you put lead in and click a button and lead comes out the bottom, you know what I mean.

Well, someone stole it one day, and when I demanded it back from him, he started chanting "Click, click." Pretty soon there was a group of 10 or 20 of the usual suspects chanting "Click, click. Click, click. Click, click. Click, click. Click, click. Click, click. Click, click. Click, click. Click, click. Click, click. Click, click. Click, click." at me for the 15-minute recess period.

Where the fuck does religion come into play there, huh? Kids aren't acting out some dogmatic influence, they're being asses because unfortunately some kids are asses, and they'll prey on whatever chink in your armor they can find.

Do I hate those kids because of that? Actually, a couple of them are pretty good friends of mine now, because when they did that they were just kids doing the stupid shit kids do.

Oh, and when I told my teachers about it? They said "It's a pencil, don't let them bother you. There you go Robbie [pat on the back] why don't you go back into the playground where the 10 to 20 usual suspects are waiting for you so they can drive you crazier."

(Italics added)

Yeah, telling teachers helps a whole fuck of a lot.
posted by cCranium at 11:01 AM on March 13, 2001


Christianity didn't kill this girl, and ranting and raving about fundamentalism and how bad religion is is completely missing the point.

I honestly don't understand why anyone would blame this on religion in the first place. This is clearly a case of kids being [stupid, insensitive, cruel] kids.
posted by gd779 at 11:26 AM on March 13, 2001


I am not blaming this incident wholly on "fundamentalism" or religion per se.

However, there is a fundamental difference between chanting "click click" when swiping a mechanical pencil, and chanting "Jesus Loves You" to someone who has expressed an interest in Wicca.

Will anyone deny that this escalates from teenage idiocy for idiocy's sake to a clear violation of the student's civil rights? How different would it be to chant "n-----r" (I'll not repeat it here) to a black student? Is this mere "taunting", or has this escalated to a civil rights issue?

The fact that nobody intervened on the student's behalf is unforgivable, but all too common.
posted by ethmar at 11:49 AM on March 13, 2001


[How different would it be to chant "n-----r" (I'll not repeat it here) to a black student? Is this mere "taunting", or has this escalated to a civil rights issue?]

Why is this a civil right? Nowhere in the constitution is anyone guaranteed never to be offended, treated poorly or misunderstood. Life, Liberty, pursuit of happiness. Those are civil rights. Having no-one offend my delicate sensibilities isn't a right - nor should it be.
posted by revbrian at 12:28 PM on March 13, 2001


ethmar: There is no difference as far as intent is concerned and it's a little strange that you can't discern that. Very few people would disagree that these kids would have used any ammunition at their disposal to hurt and belittle this girl. The fact that it took the form of religious persecution rather than taunting about a mechanical pencil or because she was tall or white or blonde or anything else is pure coincidence. (And I say this even though I'm not the least bit a fan of organized religion.)

I would also suggest that trying to turn it into a religious persecution issue undermines the situations of the thousands of kids getting picked on for more politically correct issues. Let them tease you because you're fat or skinny or short or tall or loud or quiet or you dress weird or anything else, but if you happen to invoke the name of Jesus or a racial slur, then it's a big deal.

Rather than write my own diatribe on compassion I'll direct you to anapestic's above, because it was excellent.
posted by frenetic at 12:30 PM on March 13, 2001


So if they know that they are loved by someone, that someone cares about them, why do they [commit suicide]?

It's not necessarily about despair, i.e. not having nothing left to live for. Sometimes it's about escaping an intolerable situation you feel you have no control over. Sometimes there are elements of revenge, i.e., hoping to make the people who made you feel bad feel as bad as they made you feel.

To a certain extent I believe events like Columbine and Santana are also motivated at least partially by a desire to escape the situation. Certainly randomly killing a few classmates will get you out of school more or less permanently. There is a much stronger revenge motive there than in Smith's suicide, of course, but that doesn't mean escape was not a motive too.
posted by kindall at 12:41 PM on March 13, 2001


Just with regard to people who know others love them and do it anyway - I guess that the reason people do keep on going is because they think that these others can't help. Maybe there's feelings of disappointment keyed into it - they sense these other people can't help them out, and it only takes a little negative self image to drive that thought towards "and why would they want to, anyway?". It's a weird thing. I guess, too, there's an element of not wanting to look bad or flawed in front of those you care about.

I agree with kindall inasmuch as I think suicide isn't, often, a desire to kill yourself, to cause yourself (or anyone else) pain, or to end your life, especially. It's so you can negate a situation, so you can erase yourself from a place or a happening that you can't control. Unfortunately, it's something that can appear very appealing, and often, the hard slog to get somewhere and deal with your problems looks and feels like it'll just take too damn long.

It's safe to say that at certain times in my life, I've considered it, some recently. And it's the fact that I'm chickenshit that keeps me here.
posted by captainfez at 1:06 PM on March 13, 2001


revbrian:
Why is this a civil right? Nowhere in the constitution is anyone guaranteed never to be offended, treated poorly or misunderstood. Life, Liberty, pursuit of happiness. Those are civil rights. Having no-one offend my delicate sensibilities isn't a right - nor should it be.

In the case of racial, religious, gender, disability, and sexual slurs, I certainly do not find any of these a civil right. In fact often times, these can rise into hate crimes.

ethmar:
Is this mere "taunting", or has this escalated to a civil rights issue?

Now this I can agree with. While I do not find this as "another example of 'Christian' students being profoundly unwilling to accept beliefs (or lack therof) that differ from their own," I do find Tempest's unfortunate suicide as a problem dealing with hate and lack of compassion. We can not generalise people and claim that one particular group of people are inept. That is no different then claiming that all "African-Americans" are profoundly unwilling to accept people of other skin colours (or lack thereof) that differ from their own.

I do believe that Tempest's case is a civil rights issue. Persons of all ages should not be harassed or belittled in such ways. Hate is a major problem all throughout the world. Yet what is disturbing is the lack of action that majority of the world is willing to take to stop such things from escalating.

"Experience shows that about 15 percent of students do the teasing; 10 percent are teased; and 75 percent are glad they don't get teased."

A whole third of the students typically remain silent, watching taunting like this in school. That is what I find disturbing. While I am certain all of us agree that this girl should have not had to have come to the point of suicide, how many of us would actually take action?

captainfez:
... I guess that the reason people do keep on going is because they think that these others can't help.

I know that when somebody is clinically depressed, they feel distanced from everybody. There's less of a sense that they can approach somebody and receive help. I would not be surprised if the same goes for those who are feeling suicidal.
posted by crog at 1:14 PM on March 13, 2001


Hate crime = thought crime? Something's wrong with that.
posted by owillis at 1:19 PM on March 13, 2001


[In the case of racial, religious, gender, disability, and sexual slurs, I certainly do not find any of these a civil right. In fact often times, these can rise into hate crimes.
]

I think anyone deeply offended by words should consider some sort of counseling. I have been called everything but a white man in my short life and it doesn't mean a damn thing to me.

posted by revbrian at 5:36 PM on March 13, 2001


"I think anyone deeply offended by words should consider some sort of counseling."

Well, congratulations. Have a cookie.

Meanwhile, it's a simple fact that words hurt. They always have, and they likely always will. I truly admire someone who isn't bothered by them, but I have to say they're hardly in the majority. You just reccommended counselling to almost all of the world's population.

I think that, if you indeed have never been bothered by insults and name-calling, that it explains your sentiments, though. Never having felt the pain a few choice words can cause, you can't understand how anyone could be hurt by them. It's kinda like how my straight friends just don't understand how I can like other guys that way. And like your statements here, there are thousands of people who would reccommend I get counselling for it. And yet, all I can do is sit here and laugh, because I understand it perfectly, but it's impossible to explain.

Sticks and stones may break my bones, yes. Words...words are just the sticks and stones for the mind.
posted by CrayDrygu at 11:31 PM on March 13, 2001


[Meanwhile, it's a simple fact that words hurt. They always have, and they likely always will. ]

Of course they do! But you can't have a pain free life. You can't expect everyone to agree with you. You aren't going to get rid of the idiots of the world and you can't legislate decency.

When someone says something hurtful consider the source. 99% of the time the person is acting out of ignorance. Take it with a grain of salt...
posted by revbrian at 5:04 AM on March 14, 2001


I did omit the fact that I wasn't regularily bombarded with the chanting. I was fairly regularily hassled, but it was at least with new and original ways for the most part, as opposed to months or years of regular, repetitive taunting.

Part of the reason that I think something like "click click" is similar to the "Jesus Loves You" thing when you look at both as a one-time thing, is because kids for the most part really don't understand the weight of the words they're saying.

What they know is that this particular combination of sounds makes someone really, really angry, and seeing someone really, really angry (and not retaliating) is a pretty fun way to spend recess, so they keep doing it.

Basically, I don't think the kids doing the teasing had any clue as to why what they were doing got a reaction out of Tempest, only that it did.

Oh, and ethmar, I don't think anyone's directly responded to your original query:

So, somebody please explain to me why I'm wrong for rejecting organized religion part and parcel.

Because by doing so you're keeping yourself just as ignorant as the people who accept religious dogma part and parcel. Absolutes are rarely the way to an open mind.
posted by cCranium at 5:41 AM on March 14, 2001


"Experience shows that about 15 percent of students do the teasing; 10 percent are teased; and 75 percent are glad they don't get teased.

A whole third of the students typically remain silent, watching taunting like this in school. That is what I find disturbing. While I am certain all of us agree that this girl should have not had to have come to the point of suicide, how many of us would actually take action?"

This one is easy. Of course they should have, but when you are in the lucky 75% who aren't singled out and teased mercilessly, the last thing they are going to do is draw attention to themselves by defending that 10%.

Keep your head down and your mouth shut and you can hold on to your lunch money and mechanical pencils.
posted by jennyb at 6:35 AM on March 14, 2001


i don't understand how anyone can say that this wasn't caused by religious intolerance. yes, it's true that they would have teased her with any words, but why? because she believed different things. yes, they would have taunted someone else on some other terms if she hadn't stuck out, but they singled her out because she was wiccan and liked wearing black. to me, this is the exact same as the story with cassie bernall. kid holds beliefs; beliefs end in death. no, they didn't shoot her, but you know what? they might as well have. at least this argument wouldn't be taking place. "well, they may have taunted her until she couldn't continue, but where does it say you have the right to be protected from merciless taunting and namecalling?" probably about where it says you have the right to pursuit of happiness. think she was capable of pursuing any kind of happiness with a bunch of bastards crouched around her making pentagram jokes and chanting? i really don't.

and revbrian, i've found your remarks to be very coherent and compassionate (in their own weird way ^_^), but i can't believe you would think that someone who is hurt by this kind of thing should "just go to counseling or something". that marginalizes the pain she went through and makes it okay for those kids to keep on going. if she's the one who has to go to counseling, she's the one with the problem, not the taunters, and that's simply not the case. i'd find someone driven to suicide by mean little bastards infinitely more sane than the little bastards themselves. while you're right, it's something we will all have to deal with at some point and there should be some sort of defense system within a person to prevent this kind of despair over the acts of others, it doesn't mean that you should stop saying that the people who were wrong were wrong. people have persecuted black people for years. they taunt them, call them names, and back in the day, they were killed, enslaved, tortured, etc. in 1830, would you have told a black man to go to counseling if he couldn't take the oppression? i should hope not. and while kids that are different are not in near to the same personal danger as blacks were (my hyperbole meter is going off the charts), they are increasingly scared for their safety - because of media attention to school shootings and those sorts of things.

as for the constitution, it's not illegal to call someone a nigger, but does that mean that it's okay? no, it is not. it's free speech, but that doesn't mean we shouldn't say "you know what? that's just fucking wrong." i agree with your sentiment that she should have found something to hold on to to make her stronger, but i think your argument runs the risk of legitimizing complacency.

in my mind, there's a slight parallel here between this and the case of the 12 yr old in florida who got life in prison because he beat his cousin to death. the argument there was "he had to have seen what he was doing. blood, screams, etc". the argument here for me is that these kids were fully aware of how much they were tormenting her. if she was disturbed to the point of suicide, they fucking knew it. and there's no excuse for that.
posted by pikachulolita at 1:57 PM on March 14, 2001


I never in any way said or intended to give the impression that such taunts and slurs were right. I simply don't think people should act as if they are a major deal. There are people raped and tortured in this world. Just put it in perspective is all I'm saying.
posted by revbrian at 6:13 PM on March 14, 2001


Some kids' parents are, um, optimistic, and prepare their kids to live in the world as they'd like it to be, rather than as it is. For example, as a child, I was taught never to strike back, to turn the other cheek. But that only leads to the other kids thinking you're weak, and then it gets even worse -- they torment you for no other reason than to see just how much you'll take. I also was taught never to swear, to respect my parents, and to treat my sister kindly. You can probably imagine the kind of target these attitudes made me. I was taught that if you like someone, you don't say unkind things about them. The obvious corollary -- someone who says mean things about you is not truly your friend -- had me convinced I didn't actually have any friends. As it turns out, though, most kids talk trash to each other constantly, even (especially!) if they're friends. Took me a long, long time to catch on to that one. Parents are of course no help; to begin with, it was different when they were in school, and they also have this annoying tendency to think you're exaggerating for their sympathy. You soon learn not to even bother talking to them.

No, one taunt is not a big deal. But tens of thousands of taunts over a period of years certainly can be. I would say that five or ten years of physical and mental bullying might well be the equal of rape in terms of damage to a child's spirit.
posted by kindall at 8:10 PM on March 14, 2001


One of the few things I've heard of which actually helps kids that age -- ALL kids, so far as I know -- is martial arts training.

I'm not kidding about that. But I've been through it (as an adult, but with kids in the same class), and if you haven't then you might not really understand. I was taught by a 4-Don from Japan, and we were not just taught fighting moves and self defense, but also attitudes. You do not use your knowledge to bully others; your training is for defense, not attack. If someone attacks you, you ruin him, but only if there isn't any other choice. But if he does not attack you, you don't pick a fight because doing so is dishonorable. This runs very deep in the martial arts. Their purpose is to create confident people -- but not bullies.

You always bow to your opponent before and after a match. You bow before entering the floor of the dojo. You bow to the sensei. You defer to those who are higher ranked. There is strong discipline, and despite what you think it's not enforced by threats. You defer to the sensei not because he could mop the floor with you, but because his training and expertise entitle him to that respect. In a sense it's very egalitarian, because respect is earned through accomplishment. You also treat those lower ranked than yourself with respect; there's a strong sense of noblesse oblige.

This, in turn, teaches kids that they should respect others -- indeed that they should respect everyone whether more or less powerful than they are. It also gets them used to doing so. If one hour per day you act respectfully to everyone in your class, I think it would defuse the hazing the rest of the time.

And knowing you can defend yourself is a significant boost to morale and self confidence. (It's also great exercise.) Moreover, with proper knowledge and technique, size is relatively unimportant. A good small woman can beat a less good large man in a fair fight. (And despite what you've seen in the movies, a real fight involving someone who knows what he's doing rarely takes more than five seconds once the real action begins.)

You also learn to stop someone without hurting them. I know about three ways to take someone down and immobilize them without anyone getting hurt. (Rule number 1: where the head goes, the body will follow. ) You learn control moves; if I get the right grip on you, I can control you with one hand without doing long term damage.

Doing floor exercises in a group, in unison, builds a strong sense of fellowship.

I've heard that martial arts is being taught in the inner cities as a way of combatting problems in schools and problems with gangs, and it's apparently been quite successful. Too bad it's not wider spread.
posted by Steven Den Beste at 10:59 PM on March 14, 2001


Not to dis the martial arts, but I've heard of similar results from all sorts of hands-on instruction. I'm trying to think of specific examples; I seem to remember one case of a chess club in an inner-city Chicago school that turned a number of students' lives around. The overall impression I've gotten is that it's the passion and involvement of the teacher that make the difference.

It may well be that the martial arts engender more passion and involvement in those who participate, as well as the points you mention. However, I doubt that making martial arts into a "mass production" solution, and drawing in teachers who aren't as passionate, would have such good results.
posted by harmful at 6:17 AM on March 15, 2001


think she was capable of pursuing any kind of happiness with a bunch of bastards crouched around her making pentagram jokes and chanting? i really don't. -pikachulolita

There are people raped and tortured in this world. Just put it in perspective is all I'm saying. -revbrian

Is uniformity attainable? Millions of innocent men, women, and children, since the introduction of Christianity, have been burnt, tortured, fined, imprisoned; yet we have not advanced one inch towards uniformity. What has been the effect of coercion? To make one half of the world fools, and the other half hypocrites. -Thomas Jefferson
posted by ethmar at 9:52 AM on March 15, 2001


[revbrian: When someone says something hurtful consider the source. 99% of the time the person is acting out of ignorance. Take it with a grain of salt...]

This is true in a lot of cases, but usually when incidents are isolated. If someone yells and flips you off in traffic, or a stranger screams "freak" at you because of your taste in clothing, these are the things you can take with that grain of salt. They're the ones where you just shrug it off and get on with it.

However, when "hurtful" things are said over a prolonged period, they do build up. They hurt like all hell. At school I wasn't teased too badly (past the seventh grade, at least - however, let's not go there) but I had to endure a lot of fat jokes (looking back at school pictures, I wasn't even fat in high school!), taunts about being studious, about being a music student, stupid things like that. That all hurt but it wasn't the majority of what I had to deal with.

Try telling someone who has been mentally/verbally/emotionally abused for the majority of their childhood, by a parent, that words should not hurt, or we should take subsequent bad treatment with a grain of salt, ignore it, simply deal with it. It's not easy. Breaking a child's spirit in this manner is inexcusable... and when you've been through that, it makes it even harder to deal with school teasing and isolated incidents like the examples I gave above. I know that this wasn't the case for Tempest, but I did just have to give my $0.2 on the "words shouldn't hurt" issue, because yes, they do.

And no, we shouldn't expect kindness and to be treated well by other people, but we shouldn't expect that we'll be taunted or shot down, either. Why is it that we're to expect that bullies might tease us, that we should learn to deal with the fact that not everyone will like us, but we're not told that it's not okay to belittle others, that we should make an effort to be tolerant in the least and otherwise be nice? I know that not everyone will like us as individuals but I don't think we should have to put up with bullying or debasement of any kind.
posted by sammy at 8:57 PM on March 15, 2001


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