Friday, April 20, 2012

Kenneth Weishuhn's Wish: Be Buddies, Not Bullies

I've had the honor of befriending and talking to one of Kenneth Weishuhn's uncles since his tragic and untimely death on last Saturday.  There's another uncle who's a member on the facebook blog page now, as well.  Yesterday, Kenneth's lovely older sister, Kayla, released this very powerful and emotional video as a tribute to her brother's life.  I'm left with this:  what an amazing, caring, loving, beautiful family he had.  And, it reflected in him.  In every picture I've seen of Kenneth, he was happy, he was engaging, he was warm.  To think that "they" snatched that away from him is beyond comprehension.

One thing that sticks out and reverberates in my mind in this video is Kayla, talking directly to the ones responsible for Kenneth's feeling of hopelessness, saying "I forgive you...."  Wrap your mind around the amount of strength and courage it took for a high school sophomore to say that to someone(s) who may as well have held a gun to her brother's head and pulled the trigger.  I think it speaks to the foundation that both Kayla and Kenneth were raised in.  I'm not really sure that I would be able to utter those words to the people who were responsible for pushing my younger brother, whom I loved dearly, to and over the edge.  At least, not just yet.  She did.

I read it somewhere, when this event first unfolded, and now I've heard Kayla say it:  Kenneth's mantra was "be buddies, not bullies".  Such a simple message.  Yet, obviously, it's such a difficult message to get across.  It takes effort to be an ass.  It takes effort to be hateful and mean.  These aren't things that come naturally.  Loving and caring are natural, innate emotions.  Unfortunately, these people have been so indoctrinated with vile, hatred, and intolerance, so programmed by the religious culture in which they live in that region, just the opposite is true for them.  Intolerance comes natural for them.  They've been taught that.  Lashing out against someone who's perceived to be different from them is their norm.  They've been taught that.  Hating someone because that person's life goes against their religious teaching makes sense to them.  They've been taught that, as well.

See, it's been said many times, and I've alluded to it here, myself:  the bullies, themselves, are but teenagers.  Young minds.  The difference in when someone says it to me and when I say it is this:  people want to give these kids a free pass for their actions, even when it leads to the suicide of another human being!!!  To wit, a reader just posted this comment on a blog entry about 15-year-old Grace McComas, who was bullied into suicide days before Kenneth:
My child, too, was bullied at Glenelg. I am appalled at the lack of response on the part of the school. I have heard, though, that anyone who says anything to Grace's bully will be suspended on the spot. Why weren't her bullies suspended? Seems to me the bully is getting more protection than Grace did. Schindler needs to go.
"...anyone who says anything to Grace's bully will be suspended on the spot."  Wait!  They know who this person is!?  And, now, this person is being protected?  Where was that protection for Grace?  For Tristan?  For Kenneth!?  When these young people cried out for help, where was that protection!?  Would you bet your year's salary that if that same protection would've been afforded to Grace or Kenneth, they'd still be alive today?  If someone had offered this level of protection for Tristan, she would've be fighting for her life right now?

See, when I allude to the fact that these bullies are but teens, themselves, it's done in the context of they have to have been taught this level of hatred and intolerance.  Pay attention to the details of what some of these bullies do to these victims.  Their actions are reprehensible and repugnant.  And, quite obviously dangerous.  I mean, how does a teen hate at such a level that they start a facebook page about their hatred for gays?  Where do they learn to hate at such a level that they're calling up and leaving death threats!?  Death threats!  Yes, these are just teens!!!!  Which means that there are some really vile and dangerous adults in their lives.  They aren't born hating like this.  They.  Are.  Taught.

Kenneth's message is so much easier to teach.  "Be buddies, not bullies."  I wouldn't be writing about him right now if more adults in his region were teaching their young teens rather than who and how to hate.