“Making the Bus Monitor Cry.”
That’s the name of the video. It’s more than 10 minutes long, but if you make it through more than three of them with your eyes not getting misty and your blood not boiling then you are a rock, or at least your heart is.
The video shows Karen Klein, a 68-year-old grandmother and bus monitor in upstate New York, being relentlessly tormented by a group of young boys.
They hurl profanities. One asks for her address because he says he wants to go urinate on her door. Others are more explicit about defiling her.
One boy tells her that she doesn’t have a family because “they all killed themselves because they didn’t want to be near you.” (Her eldest son committed suicide.)
One suggests that if he were to stab her, his knife would go through her “like butter.”
Since the video was posted to YouTube, there has been an outpouring of shock and outrage.
An online campaign set up to raise $5,000 to send Klein on a vacation had raised more than $500,000 by midday Friday, Klein has made the media circuit recounting her ordeal and some of the children have apologized.
But what, if anything, does this say about society at large? Many things one could argue, but, for me, it is a remarkably apt metaphor for this moment in the American discourse in which hostility has been drawn out into the sunlight.
Those boys are us, or at least too many of us: America at it’s ugliest. It is that part of society that sees the weak and vulnerable as worthy of derision and animus.
This kind of behavior is not isolated to children and school buses and suburban communities. It stretches to the upper reaches of society — our politics and our pulpits and our public squares.
Whether it is a Republican debate audience booing a gay soldier or Rush Limbaugh’s vicious attack on a female Georgetown law student or Newt Gingrich’s salvos at the poor, bullying has become boilerplate. Hiss and taunt. Tease and intimidate. Target your enemies and torture them mercilessly. Maintain primacy through predation.