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Wednesday, October 26, 2011

Cyber Dilemma

A former education student of mine just emailed and asked me, “What do I do if one of my students is being bullied online? Should I say something to someone? How can I possibly do anything to help?”

I thought about it hard and realized that we all have a voice, and I preach using it. As a teacher, I call it a “teachable moment.” As a human being, I cry out any time I see it, hear it, feel it. But as an author, in the final stretch of my PhD, I’ve left that hat sitting on a table. I should don it every chance I get, if it means putting even the slightest dent in a growing trend that is beyond disturbing. Children taunting children until they commit suicide. The bullied become the bullies, and the cycle is growing into an epidemic.

Today, I realize that what is wrong in this cyber bullying trend, something captured powerfully in the “Harry’s Law” episode Queen of Snark, is so deep-seated, I’m not sure we can fix it. But we have to try. The symptoms are on TV and the internet every day. But the catalysts aren’t the children doing the bullying, though we can’t condone what they do, but the real culprits sit in studios behind a microphone. The Huffington Post and the like, Nancy Grace and those who use the first amendment to empower their attacks, and every blog that centers on caring more about what goes on in other people’s lives than their own. Because with scrutiny comes judgment, and with judgment comes persecution. When did we allow the shift to this current age of magnifying glass distortion? A friend once told me to get out my mirror before taking out my magnifying glass – and as a society, we’ve long since ditched the mirror.

Why do we care what the Huffington Post says? When did we become permanent lookie-lous? What has happened to us that we care so much about the blood and the yellow? Why do we not only condone judging others but take part in it?

We can’t blame our children for doing what they watch us do everyday and what they see on TV. The downward spiral is dangerous, and if we don’t do something about it – even one person at a time – it will never go away.

Our children are committing suicide because of what others are saying about them. This issue has two sides: let’s stop the bullies, but let’s also start the conversation. Talk to your kids. Help them find the strength to ignore the ignorant and to put the media’s role in perspective. Find out what is going on and what they read and do online. Open your ears and your eyes, because if you don’t, the only voice they’re hearing may be the one taunting them.

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Monday, May 2, 2011


I cheer the fall of the instigator and orchestrator of September 11th. I mourn the past few weeks as we recognize the 12th anniversary of the Columbine disaster and watch fellow Americans lose their homes to tornadoes and storms. I struggle to understand the chasm that is growing in the country between the left and right, when the majority of us falls somewhere closer to the middle. And yes, I worry that the Hopis, Aztecs, Mayans, Chinese philosophers and Nostradamus have some insight into the winter solstice next December…

But in the grand scheme of life, I focus on today, on a mother who fights to remember what she had for breakfast, the smartest person I know struggling to get her to brain to cooperate. I strive to inspire her to fight…to beat the disease we can’t see, that robs her of so much of her freedom.

The world is full of turmoil, from losing a house to a fire to so many who struggle to recover from an economic downfall. But nothing any of us can lose, short of a life, can compare to knowing you’re losing your mind. What we use as a cliché looms real for so many. And it looms on the horizon for so many entering middle age. If you could, would you choose cancer over Alzheimer’s? Even death first? Many would…

The idea of losing who we are can’t compare to anything else…I want to crawl into my mom’s brain and jumpstart it, to fill in the blank spaces that are growing like ink stains on a paper towel. And deep down, selfishly, I fear the day she looks at me and has that brief instant of not-knowing….and the brief moments giving way to more.

So yes, I’m thrilled we’ve destroyed the monster who shattered our lives nearly a decade ago. But today, I will cheer when I walk in to visit my mom and marvel at her smile, at the moment when I know she loves me…and remembers me.

Sometimes today is enough.