No Tolerance for Intolerance

Post by Laura Summers for the Love for Love series.


print by Katie Daisy on Etsy

No Tolerance for Intolerance

Not long after I accepted a guest post invitation for the Love for Love series, something happened in a neighboring community that got me thinking. A middle school boy, age 14, took his own life after school one day. Initially, the details were sketchy, but one thing was clear – he had used a gun. There were immediate Facebook posts and press releases from the school district. When I saw the posting from the school authorities, I read through the comments that were being posted at breakneck speed. What I found there was a disclaimer from school authorities [likely meant to diffuse the ‘was there a gun at school’ concerns] and many, many, comments from students. Students were saying the boy had been bullied. The school was saying there had never been any evidence of it. The students were countering with their own truths.

For weeks I was haunted with emotion. My mama heart ached for the mother of that young boy. She had apparently checked him out of school early that day, and I imagine, [though I don’t know] once she had him home, and safely settled – returned to work. Several hours later her boy is gone. I could hardly bear to allow myself to think of the depth of her grief.

In the days following the boy’s suicide, I drove past that school many times. I thought about what level of cruelty had occurred there that led a child to take his own life in the presence of his peers. I poured over the issue of bullying and its evolution. Gone are the days of large boys shaking down a smaller boy for his milk money. We live in a time where everything, including bullying, has gone high-tech.

More than that, I wondered about the children [yes, I said children] who were doing the bullying. I wondered what causes children to treat other children with such hatred. I talked to everyone I could about it. I verbalized my concern for the spirit it would take to do another soul emotional harm, and wondered aloud where it cultivates from.

I live in a community rich with culture, but I also live in a state rich in a single predominant religion. I fought to reconcile the two in the wake of this tragedy. Because, you see…the story of this young boy was that he had been bullied for being gay.

For weeks, many questions plagued my mind.

Of the bullies – What were these kids being taught in their home? What have they heard their parents saying about homosexuality? Were they just mimicking attitudes and behaviors they had witnessed in their environment?
Of the parents – How, and more importantly, why would you instill such fears and intolerance in a child? How do you not know your child is a bully?
Of the school system – Why weren’t bullying accusations followed up on more carefully? What was being done to keep this child safe in his learning environment?

So many things I couldn’t wrap my mind around. I struggled to understand how it was that children were so vehemently victimizing other children, and where they acquired the notion of their right to do so.

After many discussions with friends, co-workers, and family, I came to the understanding that sometimes it isn’t that intolerance and hatred are being taught insomuch as tolerance and love aren’t being taught. I took stock in my own attitudes and behaviors. I analyzed how I had been parented and how I, myself had parented. Wasn’t it my responsibility to leave this world better than I found it? Had I instilled a belief in the celebration of diversity in my own child? I believe that I have, but was everyone else doing their part?

I looked around and saw a community full of intolerance. People instinctively pushing against anything that feels different, strange, or against what we deem the ‘norm’; forcing conformity, perhaps unintentionally, because even just ignoring a subject allows for the possibility that your children will learn an alternate version of the truth.

Don’t let it continue. Teach love. Teach acceptance. … and do it with unceasing intention.

Laura Summers – wearing a sweater, a scarf, and fuzzy boots she clicks out the details of her world from beneath a mountain of snow in Salt Lake City, Utah. Hibernating for the winter, she writes, and studies, and looks forward with anticipation to every Spring of her life.

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