February 10, 2016
Students at Penn Hills High School filmed an assault against Isaiah Wooding, a sixteen year old main-streamed student who battles Cerebral Palsy. As may be anticipated in this share-happy society, some enthusiastic schoolmate posted the video. It features a large boy kicking Mr. Wooding in the chest. Isaiah Wooding fell back and slammed his head on the ground. Most disturbing of all, the sound of gleeful laughter assails the viewer, adding to the hurt of the experience with additional ridicule. When interviewed at the hospital, Mr. Wooding admitted to frequent victimization but feels his education is worth the risk of harm to himself. His mother, Margaret, sees the incident as a teachable moment that affects everyone.
This incident does not exist in a vacuum. According to documents from the Bureau of Justice’s Statistical reports, in 2012 the rate of a person with a disability being attacked was nearly three times greater than the rate of able-bodied people. Robin J. Landwehr’s 2014 research also pointed out people with disabilities are twice as likely to be the victim of a simple assault. ARC reports eighty-five percent of people with a disability will experience an assault in their lifetime. The number could be higher, since many incidents remain unreported. Worse, even when recounted, crime against the disabled is often dismissed, dubbing the victim “without credibility” due to mental impairment. Such assaults limited to the United States. The British paper “The Independent” reports attacks on the disabled is rife in the UK.
I am the mom of a young lady who battles through the effects of Cerebral Palsy. I experience her daily struggles. She is one of my five children, and I adore every precious soul entrusted to my care. Intentions and actions, though – without action of some sort, nothing changes. Thus, I write this letter, wishing God made my voice stronger. I type with a sense of outrage not only for Mr. Wooding but for all who are bullied and abused. I send these words into the world praying they touch hearts.
I wish all witnesses of victimization possessed the inner resolve to lend their voices to stop such onslaughts. The fear of retaliation is real. A desire in a bystander to turn away prevalent. Some might point out if a thug is targeting someone else, the brute doesn’t notice them. However, Society breaks down when good people remain mute.
I pity those who laughed. Such behavior validates the aggressor’s actions. It encourages a continuation. They might feel they aren’t the actor in the incident, and thus are in the clear. In truth, by pumping a fist and laughing, the spectator becomes a participant and a guilty party.
I cringe for the parents of the bullies. They must know within themselves they’re failing at parenting if their children can pick on those weaker than themselves. Such displays of cruelty reveal defects in character. Bullies are often themselves subjected to outrages that imprint on their personalities and influence their actions. The age-old cycle of abuse must stop. “Power over others is weakness disguised as strength. True power is within,” said Eckhart Tolle. To effect a change within oneself, to break free of a cycle or find the inner fortitude to exist without the approval of others, demonstrates respect-worthy self-control.
Mrs. Wooding’s assessment distills this issue to a simple truth. Bullying in any form affects everyone. It is condemnation of morality. Do unto others as you would have done to you.
Not one of us can achieve an end to victimizing the helpless alone, but if each of us raises the alarm when we see a case, perhaps it will diminish. Maybe with less laughter at the plight of others and more empathy for what our neighbors go through, our society can improve. We can help each other. By shaming instead of encouraging and laughing along with the bullies, they can learn the flaw within their nature and improve. Instead of sweeping aside such repugnant acts, we can lend our individual strengths to create a stronger community.
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