“Everyday I think why am I still here?”
That’s just one of many thoughts 15 year old Amanda Todd wrote on plain white note cards, as she shared the hell that she had been enduring via a YouTube video a month before she took her own life.
To say that I am sad and sickened by the death of 15 year old Amanda Todd, from Vancouver, British Columbia is an understatement.
If you haven’t heard about this story, Amanda made some really bad choices and as a result the kids in her life were relentless, cruel, ugly and brutal. For two years, after making her first documented bad decision to flash her breasts on a web-cam, she endured physical, emotional and mental bullying that followed her from school to school and even to another city.
What is worse, people continue to comment on all the multitude of videos shared, blogs written and facebook discussions that Amanda was a ‘skank’, that she got what she deserved, that she was stupid, that she was a whore.
How have we gotten so lost that we lack compassion? How can our reaction to another person’s hurt be to beat them down even more, to add insult to injury, to blame and humiliate, rather than embrace them or protect them? How can we feel justified? How can we not feel her pain?
I’m reminded of the The Lord of The Flies in which author William Goldberg explores the fundamental human struggle between civility and savage instinct. I can’t stress it enough that children need guidance, boundaries and healthy role models, without them, the human savage instinct can easily take hold.
We can point the finger at reality TV, at music, at celebrity life styles, but these things are the symptom. Today’s kids are falling through the cracks. They are thrust into an adult world without the emotional and mental capacity to navigate, and worse, there is no room for mistakes as they try to figure out who they are. Any mistake can rapidly be shared not only with one’s immediate peers, but with strangers around the world.
As the adults, we have to step in and address hurtful language, questionable behavior; we have to help instill civility over savage instinct, whether we hear it or see it in our own children or in their friends. We cannot pretend like it doesn’t matter. We cannot say ‘kids will be kids.’
I also keep thinking of the book ‘The Tipping Point’ which talks about behavior and trends as infectious. We are in an infectious bullying trend, it keeps growing and growing and we have to find a positive antidote to tip it, to make it stop.
The world is different today and we all, parents, teachers, friends need to be instilling the importance of human value, that emotional connection.
Years ago Amanda Todd could have been me. I made a lot of bad choices when I was a teenager as I was trying to figure out who I was. Maybe she could have been you too, or your friend or your child.
We need to be examples of compassion, of understanding and of support and we need to be present in our children’s lives each and every day. We cannot leave the molding of who them become up to television, music, video games and their peers.
Below is Amanda’s video from a month ago. I urge you to watch it and to remember that she is 15 years old.
I do not understand how anyone could respond to this with more vile words and taunting, yet that is exactly what happened.
I am so saddened by this.
I ask that we all find, teach and share compassion, understanding, respect, love and support.
I can only hope that Amanda Todd’s story and her death will act as a catalyst.
To stop bullying and hate, the change must first come from within and we must help children find that spark of compassion that will bring an end to this disturbing and debilitating epidemic of feeling empowered by diminishing another.
RIP Amanda Todd