Thanks to everyone for letting me know about the ABC Family movie “Cyberbully” that aired last week. While I think the movie did a fair job of itemizing the horrors of bullying and the equally horrific consequences of that form of abuse, I think it unintentionally made a much more important point - a fundamental problem in our society. A lack of simple civility and decency.
In one scene, the mom went to the home of one of the bullies. The mom tried to explain to the girl’s father that his daughter was relentlessly posting hurtful, mean and degrading things about her daughter over the Internet and encouraging others to join in. So vile in fact, that because of it, her daughter had attempted suicide. His response was first, that he was a lawyer (which was supposed to give him some kind of instant clout?), and second, that it was his daughter’s constitutional right to say whatever she wanted over the Internet. The dad was more concerned with his daughter’s First Amendment rights than the fact that his daughter was treating another person so inhumanely!
I started thinking to myself, "Well, he’s got a point. Our FIrst Amendment rights have to be protected because without them..." Wait a minute! I actually started to fall for that! That’s not what this is about at all. He’s using a technique that’s used all the time to win arguments and excuse inexcusable behaviors.
The technique is simple. Divert attention from the issue at hand to a “hot button topic” so that people get so "riled up" about the diversionary topic, that they lose sight of the issue at hand. The original topic gets lost in a meaningless debate - meaningless because it has nothing to do with the original subject matter!
What the mother in the movie was bringing to the father’s attention was that his daughter was treating another person cruelly - inhumanely! That has nothing at all to do with “upholding our constitutional rights!” This is much simpler. The issue is about common decency and the lack of it in today’s society’s. In this matter, we don’t need someone standing up for our constitutional rights.
What we need are:
Parents who will actually parent.
Parents who take the time to study about truly effective parenting strategies.
Socially responsible media.
Government officials that can debate respectfully and speak civilly of each other.
School systems that create atmospheres of mutual respect and civility.
School systems that teach, as part of their basic curriculum, basics such as courtesy, responsibility, honor, Integrity, conflict resolution and respectful communication skills.
Just because we can do a thing under the law, doesn’t mean that we should. Just because the First Amendment gives us the right to say anything we wish, it doesn’t follow that we should abuse that privilege and use it inappropriately. It shouldn't take a law to require us to live with simple civility and decency.