Friday, May 16, 2008

Freedom isn't synonymous with fairness

new addition to the playground, originally uploaded by toyfoto.

Jed and I disagree.


About a lot of things.

For instance: He likes chocolate-based ice cream flavors while I prefer fruit or coffee-flavored confections;

He hates fish. I love fish.

He prefers peaches in his yogurt. I like berries.

He thinks children who make hideous experiments out of food items in the pantry should be made to eat their creations. I think a little "Time Out" and a lot more supervision is a more humane and appropriate consequence.

He also thinks a woman in Missouri, who was indicted on charges in connection with a "cyber bullying" event that ended after a teenage girl committed suicide, should go to jail.

I don't.

Not that I think Lori Drew doesn't deserve to be vilified in the press, or spurned by her neighbors, or considered to be America's Most Immature Mother for the next fifteen minutes or fifteen years for that matter. She definitely earns that disrespect.

But to make Cyber Bullying (or any bullying for that matter) a crime, I think, endangers our freedom of speech.

Jed puts himself in the place of the parents. He sees a woman who victimized a teenage girl, who set her up to take a fall. Even if she didn't know the girl would hang herself in the aftermath, she is culpable and should be punished by the law. He sees an event that is deeply disturbing, and that, from all media accounts, seems to be burgeoning as more and more people avail themselves of the thin blanket of anonymity the internet provides.

I see the many of the same things, and yet I also see that such a visceral reaction has caused a rush toward making outright and low-down meanness a crime. I see the disparity of having laws that apply justice arbitrarily. Why have different laws for cyberspace? In the real world, if they had passed fake notes in the classroom would they be in the courtroom? It's not really a different world. Harassment is harassment wherever it is found, whether on the schoolyard or in the boardroom or on a web page.

We all need a lesson in dealing with jerks that doesn't end up with a phone call to the local precinct. We need our children to be strong enough to ignore; to rise above their petty peers. Not only because bullies will always exist.

But because if this keeps up, one day free speech may not.

Say your criticism of treatment by a doctor, or shoddy service at a store, or any number of things you have a right to say becomes something criminal because someone else says you made it up intentionally?

Really, this type of legislation could go anywhere and apply to anything.

What about that boy to whom you gave your virginity IN REAL LIFE? He's the one who told you he'd love you forever and who broke up with you the next day. What about him? Some of you are probably wishing he could get his comeuppance, too. Maybe if he broke your heart in an e-mail, you'd get your shot.

To Jed, and many others I imagine, it may seem as if I am defending this monstrous woman who antagonized a child in her skewed understanding of fairness and lack of any semblance of parenting skills. Everyone, it seems, wants an eye for an eye.

I want to teach my kids that jerks are jerks; and nobody -- not even a Real Boy who tells you lies or says mean things — is worth your tears. You are better than that. We should all be better than that. We can unplug. We can move on. And we should.

Let the bullies of morning news magazines take care of the public shaming. They're already on it.


Anonymous said...

I have to say, I agree. The whole situation is so awful that I don't even want to think about it, but I had to open an article about it just to see what exactly they charged this woman with. I didn't know what the crime was? I do understand Jed's perspective and I can't even imagine the pain the girls parents are going through, but what was the crime?

Jasi said...

I don't like jail as a solution to all crimes. Just like I don't really like time outs.

I think this mother should have to go to sensitivity training, on her own dime. I think she should have to donate a lot of community service toward something that would push her to become more compassionate and responsible.

Andrea said...

This whole story just makes me sick. At first, I was thinking much like Jed. I think she should be punished, go to jail even. But you have a really good point about the location of the harrassment having anything to do with it.

This woman lives in my area. Granted, a suburb on the opposite end of the city from me, but still. I heard this story back when the young girl first committed suicide, and I think they said a bit more then about the situation then than they're saying now for the sake of the court case. The thing I remember from the story most is that this Lori Drew woman was more than a neighbor to Megan Meier's family. They were friends. Lori Drew was aware of Megan's bouts with depression and was aware of her having a therapist and being on anti-depressants. And yet, she still did this Josh Evans bit, even though Megan's mom, her friend, had confided in her about her worries about Megan's mental stability.

And she still did this. I get sick to my stomach thinking about it. But I also don't think Lori Drew should go to jail for 20 years. I think a shorter sentence, say 3-5 years, might be more appropriate. But your point of view has made me stop and think. I'm going to have to consider it more to dredge out my own thoughts on the matter. I would hate to see freedom of speech become one of the rights that slowly gets chunks taken out of it in the name of our own protection. I think enough of that has gone on already.

Great post.

Kelly said...

I just hate mean people, plain and simple. What a wickedly immature woman. Does she deserve jail time? I don't know. You make many good points. Another part of the problem is childrens' access to the family computer. Their usage is not being monitored, they have free reign to create pages at MySpace and Facebook, and parents can be clueless, though this doesn't seem to be the case here. Still, it's intensely sad: that an idiot would do something like that to a child, but also that the child was so fragile that she thought hanging herself was her only option.