My sister met with Tanner’s teacher, to discuss the bullying. This is what one is supposed to do, as a parent, to address bullying. One goes to the teacher, and one sits down with the teacher to discuss what’s been happening, and an appropriate response is determined. In a case like this one, where the bullied child is disabled, autistic, and terminally ill, one would expect that this would yield an immediate course of action, immediately embarked upon.
Except, in this case, it was not. As my sister explained it in a comment to the last post, Tanner’s teacher doesn’t really believe that Tanner is being bullied. She said that she knows all the kids involved and that they come from good families and homes and she believes that they are “very tolerant.” She said that the other child denied everything; she said that he said that Tanner was ‘misconstruing’ the insults and threats, which, of course, couldn’t possibly actually be insults and threats, because these children come from good homes. They couldn’t possibly. And, also, in any case, whether or not they could do it is beside the point, because they – the children, who couldn’t possibly be bullies, because they are from good homes, tolerant* homes! – insist that Tanner’s behavior is provocative. He made them do that thing that they are not doing, so!
God. He is severely disabled. He is autistic. He is dying. What the hell, he provoked them, those poor, persecuted, able-bodied, well, tolerant children? And even if – EVEN IF – what then? Does it not matter that there is a conflict here, and that he is outnumbered and outmatched?
I’m so angry. I can’t even.
*Can we discuss for a minute how horrible the word ‘tolerant’ can be, viewed from certain angles? The children come from families who tolerate difference, and so they have certainly learned how to tolerate people who are different! How wonderful of them to put up with things and people that undermine their comfort! How lovely they must be, to straighten their backs and stiffen their smiles and tolerate others who are not like them, when doing so surely strains their aesthetic fibre! Tolerate is something you do in response to icky, unpleasant, discomfiting things. It is not a marker of being a good person. I tolerate cold weather, I tolerate the taste of eggplant, I tolerate assholes – I do not expect to be lauded for these things. Tolerating minor inconveniences is how I get by in the world as a functioning human being; this is what distinguishes me from puppies and toddlers. THIS IS NOT PRAISEWORTHY. WE SHOULD DO BETTER.
Parents, raise your children to do better. Please.