From the housetops

A long post about internet shaming.

Britt McHenry is a bully. You can see for yourself how shockingly cruel she is. She says women should be comfortable in their own skin, yet she insults another woman’s body, intelligence, job, education, and even her teeth.

Who does that kind of thing? Who has ever lashed out anger, or judged someone to be beneath them?  Who responds to frustrating situations by insulting the person who is trying to help?

I don’t know about you, but I have.  Maybe not to that degree, and not under those same circumstances.  And I would not for a moment excuse her behavior.  But watching this story unfold, and feeling the wave of my judgement against her made me feel guilty, too: for that time I was mean to a girl in sixth grade, or the times I was snarky with my parents, or times I yelled at the kids. I’ve apologized long ago, and I’m doing better, but right now I remember those moments.

I shared those thoughts, and someone pointed out that my behavior wasn’t as bad as hers. I wasn’t in a privileged position.  I wasn’t a full-grown woman then, and I didn’t know what I know now. Am I better than she is though? Am I less bad?  Is that even a thing?

She says she’s sorry. I read that and thought of those people who couldn’t care less about the wake of destruction they leave, but feel sorry for themselves when someone says it’s not OK.  But then again, is it as simple as that, even for bad people?  It makes me wonder whether I’ve learned enough about empathy.

I think it’s interesting that since this incident, Ms. McHenry has been asked discuss anti-bullying with elementary school students.  I really am curious to hear what she’ll have to say.  I hope it has an impact on would-be bullies, not to simply scare them straight, but to maybe help them think about how others feel. Can we get that from a talk on anti-bullying by a bully who was caught? Or can she understand empathy when she hasn’t been required to pay the full price? But what is the full price really?  What do I owe? What am I still trying to make people pay?

It makes me wonder if judgement day might be like watching a series of awful Youtube clips and wishing we could hide under a rock, or whether we’ll see compassion we’ve never known.  I hope Ms. McHenry has learned a thing or two. And I also hope for forgiveness. For all of us.

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