Why is Keaton Jones crying?

All those stories on the web about children’s abuse and harassment by other children have already become a lump in a throat. The other day, I’ve found out from a friend that it is called “bullying”, although the word itself was in front of my eyes before – somewhere there, on the network. Many new words that mean terrible things have appeared over the last ten years.

The video where Keaton Jones is crying has appeared more than a year ago. For this time, millions of adults have sent Keaton their virtual kisses, compassion, and support. They sent all these, dried their unwanted tears (well, who is able to look calmly at child’s tears?) and continued to scroll their Facebook feed – cause there are photos, there are sensations, wow, a classmate has married for the third time. It’s so fun to live…

No matter how hard I try, I can’t recall such things in my school. You just want to raise your index finger, sigh and proclaim something like “In our time …”, “Modern youth is so horrible”, “Where are we going with this” – well, something from the eternal repertoire of old-farts.

Yesterday in the queue at a supermarket register, one mom lectured her daughter, who at that time was choosing a chewing gum, how to live her life: “Well, not at all of the kids have the same jacket as you do, or a phone. Just try to treat it calmly, be the bigger person, don’t pay attention to their jealousy. There will always be people who are jealous. Not everyone is successful. Not everyone is beautiful. Get used to this, my darling. Life is a very complicated thing,” mink sleeve was putting her goods all over the conveyor belt. Finally, she said (ordered!) something down upon to cashier, looking through her, somewhere far away, at the place beyond the attainment of envious ones and losers. And she went away, taking her high-school-daughter with her. The cashier blushed straight to her hair roots, she couldn’t look up at the next two buyers.

At my school they wanted us to wear a uniform. Everyone. The director who taught us physics during our high-school in the beginning of a school year with no mercy had taken golden earrings, rings, and chains from our girls in order to honestly return them on May 25th. I remember how my classmate Oksana during our last year had dyed her hair. An angry head teacher publicly demanded Oksana to “Do whatever you want, but tomorrow you should come to school as you should!!!” Such times were back then, such a school in the district center. One day vice-principal Valentyna Vasylivna took me to the window and politely asked me not to wear at school this T-shirt with an image of a rock band. Apparently, she violated some kind of my right to freedom and self-expression. But, for the life of me, I can’t remember any case that senior students dropped their friend on the floor and kicked her with their heels in our school.

We had one boy in our class – an orphan, he was raised by a grandmother. From time to time some clothes were bought for him at the expense of the school. And when, for example, when our class went for some kind of a school trip or it was necessary to bring money for refurbishing, our head teacher, Kateryna Hryhorivna, asked this boy to go out for a chalk or for some reason to run to a teacher’s room… when he was out she was telling us that there are 27 of us in the class, and he is all alone. And it probably won’t be hard on anyone’s wallet, if our parents chip in for the ticket for him. She spoke so sincerely, concentrated, fearing even to offend him, she even blushed. She reminded us of the tact. She asked us not to let it slip by accident. Maybe, she just wanted to help this boy (I don’t name him, as you see), or she wanted to awaken some kind of humanity in us, but not once – not! once! – none of my classmates looked down at this guy.

I don’t know why, but I remember very well a class meeting before the Commemoration Monday (orthodox holiday devoted to the commemoration of the dead – translator’s note). Kateryna Hryhorivna (and her name I mention – and I’m proud of it) said: “Many of you will go to the cemetery. Old ladies will come to you there; they will treat you, perhaps, with some cakes to commemorate the dead. These elderly ladies may be very old. And their cakes may look not the best way. But I ask everybody of you – thank her, go somewhere and put that cake on a grave, so that lady could not see it. It’s very important not to offend a person who gives you something from the heart.” I didn’t meet classmates at the cemetery, but I’m sure that none of them offended anyone.

All this seems to be simple, right? Is it so difficult to tell a child about this at home? No, it’s not. But…

One day, we are sitting with a friend at her place. After a teacher’s complaint, my friend is lecturing her daughter – that she shouldn’t treat the others arrogantly. Because she hasn’t taught her to do that. That she shouldn’t mock the others. Because she hasn’t taught her to do that. That she needs to understand that there are different capabilities and different income and that’s no excuse for being arrogant. For she has never taught that her daughter! The daughter is staring at the floor, she’s silent, and in the corners of her mouth – there is something like a secret arrogant smile. The daughter goes to her room, and my friend says me something about Tanka who bought a counterfeit handbag at the market for five hundred hryvnias and this silly wants to fool someone, you know, a bird may be known by its flight. The door to the kitchen is slightly opened, the friend speaks loudly…

Many times I’ve heard the opinion, that there is no need to discuss something in the children’s presence, it’s like some conversations should be made behind the closed doors, and kids shouldn’t see something. I think that’s all in vain. Your children don’t listen to what you are saying to them. They listen to everything that you say. They watch what you are doing. You won’t be able to hide from them; you won’t be able to trick them.

There was a cleaning lady at our school. She was called Vira the Limpie. She limped very hard. Sometimes she could come to work a little bit drunk. The school administration pitied her, they didn’t fire her. Vira was mopping the floor on our third floor. Someone from my classmates, having seen that Vira was drunk, mocked her a little. Made some fun of her. Kateryna Hryhorivna gathered us after classes. Dear Lord… I saw her like that only that time. Do you think she was talking about respect for human’s labor? About sympathy for the vulnerable ones? About humanity in general? Hell yes! She was shouting from behind the teacher’s desk that this boy had a “darkness in his heart” and compared him to Cain. To Cain, dear comrades! At the end of the lesson, an abundant stream of tears shed on the desk from Cain’s eyes. Eventually, he could not resist, grabbed his bag and rushed away from the classroom. Maybe it was too much? Maybe she had no right to do that? Maybe she caused mental trauma? Maybe, maybe… And maybe, on the contrary, she applied an ointment, that burns at first, but then…

In general, I don’t know much about the upbringing. And I don’t know what to do. Perhaps, we are already going back, to our dark ages, to its piercing gloom from which we had come here once. I don’t know. I just saw a video where Keaton Jones is crying and asking his mom why they are so cruel, whether it brings them a pleasure to insult, how it can be possible to bully the defenseless… It seems that mom doesn’t know. As well as me…

Serhiy Osoka

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