We have normality. I repeat, we have normality. Anything you still can’t cope with is therefore your own problem. Douglas Adams
I am reading a book called “As agreed with the doctor – when the support system fails.” It’s a mother’s description of the outrageous treatment of her son in kindergarten, school and health service. He was diagnosed with ADHD, but the people that were supposed to help him made it a lot worse. One of the early episodes happened when the boy was eight years old. When his mother picked him up from the school day care facilities one day a sixth grader that wasn’t even supposed to be there, as this programme is for first to fourth grade, was sitting on his chest and hitting him. There were no one else in the school yard, and the teacher was inside.
The bullying had been going on since he started school, but when they still didn’t want to deal with it, the mother went to the police. The police couldn’t do more than talk to the pupils and encourage them to stop bullying in general, which is what they did. The teacher had used every opportunity up to this point to tell the mother what an awful person her son was, but from this point she was blamed as well. This school had a good reputation and had been mentioned in media because bullying didn’t exist there. The only problem as far they were concerned was that this mother could give them bad publicity.
There are many, not the least in schools, that think all relations should be restored, but that isn’t necessarily desirable. I know about cases where the victims have been forced to associate with the oppressors because they had a policy of not turning anyone down. That way you could camouflage your attacks, but make it very public when you offer your victim friendship. The victim would be expected to play with the attacker, but this could also be used as a way to isolate a victim by stealing friends. Many victims have had a lot of the responsibility placed on them. Forgiveness is expected to be expressed instantly, like it is a spinal reflex, and some schools seem to be bad about that.
What do you think the eight year old boy and his mother should have done? I am not especially focused on revenge, but it is pretty clear in this case that there were several guilty parties that refused to take responsibility (the school, the children bullying and the parents). They were not interested in acknowledging that they had made some extremely poor decisions. The Jews have a stance on forgiveness that is problematic for Christians because it’s about our relationship with God, but it works between people. This forgiveness occurs in several steps, and it is necessary for the guilty party to admit wrongdoing, show remorse and a willingness to provide reparation. That of course means asking for forgivenes, but that’s not nearly good enough.
Forgiveness is hard and I don’t have the answer, but I am pretty sure that pretending everything is hunky-dory isn’t it. The boy from the book shouldn’t be preoccupied with a hate that may never let go, but I don’t think he should be quick to seek what the school perceives as normality either. I like the Jewish model better than the schools’ desire to pressure victims into immediate forgiveness. I don’t personally have room for unreliable people in my life. I don’t see how I can trust people that have demonstrated an unwillingness or inability to handle reasonable expectations. Besides, doesn’t it go against our nature to forgive and forget?
I have been thinking about ethics lately. I also recommend Cooperation pays off. I borrowed the headline from a Norwegian singer. Anne Grethe Preus has some fascinating phrases I don’t always understand. In this song she says “it’s a nameless mystery, a small Milky Way. It’s just called further.” That’s me. I press on. I hitchhike through the galaxy. It’s not about revenge; it’s about choosing who I want to spend time with.