Tuesday, March 30, 2010


Two stories have twisted around themselves this week. Two stories that while seemingly unrelated, have much in common. In Massachusetts, at South Hadley High School, as many as 30 students are being questioned as participants or witnesses to the events that led a beautiful Irish immigrant, Phoebe Prince to take her own life. Bullied? Yes, but much more here. A cyber crime, yes, but still more here.
Not the least of the details that are so disturbing about this tragedy is that fact that apparently many teachers and administrators knew, to some extent, about the harassment, the verbal and emotional abuse, the fear involved in this most vicious display of inhumanity. I won't bother with the details, you are no doubt familiar with them by now. Where is the disconnect here? Who saw what? Most importantly, what lies behind the sensational spectacle of the headlines, tabloid media treatment, and temporary outrage? Was it her accent? Did her "hook ups" with a couple of the school's athletes ignite a firestorm of jealousy? Is My Space or Facebook to blame? What do her tormentors think about tolerance? I always wonder how the curriculum at a school could impact the potential for these awful, needless suicides.
The other, equally repugnant story that surfaced involves the arrest of nine people in an alleged Christian militia. (now there's an oxymoron for you) Armed to the wisdom teeth, they are apparently expecting the Anti-Christ. The FBI went in for the bust when it became apparent that they had big plans very soon to take out a cop or two, and then ambush the funerals that followed. Planting bombs was apparently on their agenda too. Their web site showed lots of images of these devoted folks in military gear running around a woodsy area like they were recreating WWII battles. All this in the state of Michigan.
Today the Christian right fighters lost their web site. Even though the FBI pulled it down, I'm sure another will emerge just as fast. There are, no doubt, similar ones out there already. But at South Hadly HS, the web site looks just like business as usual today. In fact, it's quite comprehensive as high school sites go these days. It looks like such a great school. With a wide array of student clubs and organizations that include a Peace Club and a Peer Leaders organization, this appears to be a very aware and socially engaged environment. I noticed that many students read some classic works of literature in their English classes. The kind of books you'd expect to make an impression on developing adolescent minds. Books like To Kill a Mockingbird, and Of Mice and Men, I would think, if taught properly would foster empathy. And then there is the official Mission Statement of South Hadley High School. All schools have these philosophical statements. Usually they are required to meet some code or law somewhere. For SHHS, it seems to be functioning as a "Missing Statement" these days. Like the militia who visualize Jesus armed and in camo, South Hadley, unfortunately has taught the world the definition of Irony.
Our Working Mission
We Pledge to create a challenging and supportive academic community in which each student will acquire the knowledge and skills needed to successfully pursue post-secondary options of their choice and act as a responsible citizen in a diverse and global society.
Can't you just hear Dr. Phil saying, "How's that working for y'all?"
Terrorism takes many forms, doesn't it?

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