Covering for others’ cruelty is often a survival tactic

Dear President Trump,

Not that you would ever ask or care at all, but I’m feeling some better this morning. Still sore and stiff and breathing deeply is not a possibility just yet, but overall on the mend. I went for a short, slow walk this morning and found new little Buddha statue in an unexpected place. I would have missed it had I been running.

Yesterday as I was trying to reset after falling I read about the teenage boys in Wisconsin posing for a junior prom photo with their arms extended in Nazi salutes. There are maybe four of the sixty who don’t have their arms up but they seem to have just missed the cue since they are looking away from the camera, laughing about something and not seeming the least bit concerned about what is going on. It’s a very scary picture.

Then there was the story of the teenage boy with cerebral palsy in Nova Scotia who was made to lie down in a muddy stream for other teenagers to walk across as a human bridge. Once the video surfaced the ones who walked on him fell all over themselves with public apologies. They were suspended from school for all of one day.

I read these two stories back to back starting with the Nazi boys and when I got to the cruel girls and boys who walked on their classmate I started crying and had a hard time stopping. In addition to the kids having treated their classmate horribly, I had trouble with how the adults quoted in the piece focused on the young man’s readiness to forgive, how he was such a compassionate person for having made up a fake story so the others wouldn’t get in trouble. Do they not get that he likely has tons of practice coming up with semi-plausible excuses for others’ cruelty as a way of protecting himself from further cruelty? If he were to tell adults what the other students do to him, surely he would be targeted further and frankly, I worry that he isn’t safe now. This is why women make up shit about how they walked into doorframes when their husbands punch them in the face and why people of color routinely swallow all sorts of racist crap – to expose the abusive behavior is to risk more, and worse, abuse. The write-up of that boy’s ordeal, his parents’ response, and the community’s fundamental indifference was unconscionably superficial.

May we be safe from one another.
May we be willing to recognize and stop patterns of abuse.
May we not kid ourselves that quick forgiveness is always valid.
May we accept that cruelty is compelling and never let up in working to eliminate it.

Tracy Simpson

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