Posts Tagged ‘forgiveness’
As the scandal at Penn State continues to dominate the news, talk about why the key administrators and law enforcement ‘didn’t do more’ is accompanied by disgusted head-shaking: because of ‘fear of losing their jobs.’ Such speculation, while not wrong, has not taken into consideration ‘the bystander effect‘—which suggests that most of us would not have acted much differently.
Although the Huffington Post has already noted this angle, it bears repeating on a bullying blog site.
Of course they were afraid of losing their jobs, just as fourth grade bystanders are afraid of ‘telling’ on a bully, for fear of losing all that they have—their social standing in the schoolyard. But they also did what most bystanders do: they deferred responsibility, assuming that ‘someone else’ would take care of it. Paterno passed the buck to Curley, Curley to Schultz and presumably, Spanier. Spanier was let go immediately because as president, he should have stepped in. But as president, he must delegate, and he had Curley overseeing athletics…..and Curley of course deferred to the president….and round it goes…..each thinking the other was ‘handling’ the situation.
This is not to defend what they did, or to suggest that no cover-up was involved. But it is to add another consideration to our understanding of how and why it happened. Kitty Genovese had how many witnesses to her murder, all of whom deferred to the person in the next apartment, who might have seen something more….and ‘handled’ the situation.
It is a question of the cost of assuming responsibility in our society—how forgiving are we if someone ‘says something’ and is wrong? Not to mention, what is often (though clearly not in this instance!) the cost of being right?
Ever since I saw the ‘follow-up’ video interview of Casey Hines bully Richard Gale, I have been bothered by the ‘what next’ question. What is the next step for the bully?
Richard Gale is not initially sorry, and claims to be as much of a victim of bullying as Casey.
This honesty on his part cuts both ways:
On the one hand, it makes it easy to take sides, to continue to find fault with Richard, and to understand the “I hate Richard Gale” websites vilifying the young boy.
On the other hand, it creates complexity. He wasn’t sorry―as many bullies are not.
Should Richard (and all the other bullies) repudiate their actions anyway?
(I can already hear the automatic, unfelt “Sorry” ringing in my ears.)
Which value do we emphasize in this situation―honesty (which seems inappropriate, as attested to by Richard’s interview) or civility (you must go through the motions of apologizing even if you are not sorry).
Surely we expected Richard to apologize, perhaps weep, become self-deprecating―even if only to get out from underneath the ‘most hated kid on the internet’ status by repenting―and providing us, his judges, the option to forgive him. But he gave us little satisfaction on this front.
Is he not sorry because he simply does not understand that what he did was wrong―because we, as a culture, have turned a blind eye to it for so long?
Is the subsequent cyber- vigilante justice we all mete out to him OK? Are we all now entitled to become bullies ourselves, targeting, and harassing someone else who did not live up to our expectations (Gale himself) ? Aren’t we, the BYSTANDERS around the world, ‘speaking up for the victim’ here? Isn’t this what all the ant-bullying experts are encouraging us to do?