Jim Brock: Some Americans really like bullies
“It's about to be a very eventful night, to say the least.”
This was 18-year-old Nolan Burch's final tweet before an incident at West Virginia University fraternity house last week resulted in his untimely death.
According to a recent NBC News report, Burch was found lying unconscious on the floor of the Kappa Sigma fraternity and later pronounced dead.
The incident, which officials say was pledge-related, prompted the university to temporarily suspend all Greek activities, “effectively shutting down its 28 fraternities and sororities,” the report said.
As of Monday, the incident was still under investigation.
Seeing photos of this young man on TV broke my heart. He was a handsome kid, who had his entire life ahead of him. I immediately thought about my own teenagers. It’s difficult not to let your wheels spin when you hear awful news like this.
But then, it happened. I was reminded of just how selfish we are in America.
“I think the university was a little quick to shut down all of Greek life over something happening to one person,” a junior WVU student told NBC. “It’s tragic, but everyone else is mourning what’s going on. I don’t think it’s the right move …”
You have to be kidding me.
Mind you, this young man’s comments are not representative of all students involved in Greek organizations, but you have to wonder where this young man’s priorities lie.
Freedom of speech and freedom to be a callous punk — although the latter is protected by the former — should be easily distinguishable, but it all depends on who you ask.
Research shows that pledge-related deaths continue to plague American colleges and universities, so perhaps the punk mentality is more rampant that I thought.
According to an October report from The Washington Times, Bloomberg data shows that more than 60 people have died since 2005 in fraternity-related incidents, and more than 70 colleges and universities are being investigated “after accusations that the institutions improperly handled sexual assault cases.”
What has happened to this generation? It can be summed up in this statement from author George Orwell: “Bully-worship, under various disguises, has become a universal religion.”
Americans idolize bullies, whether we want to admit it or not. Why do you think Americans are so enamored by hawkish politicians, corporate raiders and caustic talk-show hosts? They are perceived as alphas, and the majority of people want to follow their lead — either directly or by association.
So the bullying mentality runs downhill.
Pamela Engel of Business Insider wrote a piece titled “11 Staggering Facts About Bullying In America” in October 2013 that gives some sobering statistics about bullying, which include:
• Bullying affects nearly one in three American kids grades 6-10. • 83 percent of girls and 79 percent of boys report experiencing harassment. • Six out of 10 teenagers say they witness bullying in school once a day. • An estimated 160,000 children miss school on a daily basis for fear of attack or intimidation. • 40 percent of boys identified as bullies in grades 6-9 had three or more arrests by age 30. • 75 percent of school shooting incidents have been linked to bullying and harassment. • Nearly 70 percent of students think schools respond poorly to bullying. • 64 percent of children who are bullied do not report it.
How many of us are guilty of cozying up to a bully to keep from being victimized? The meek are left behind far too often in our culture. It’s like the old cliche, “Nice guys finish last.” So true.
I didn't create the mess, but I understand how it works. Unfortunately, the disease of apathy continues to invade the American psyche – and our kids are not immune.
So when a young college student wants to complain about missing the weekend kegger with his frat buddies “over something happening to one person,” we should all take a hard look at how we arrived at this dark place in our culture.
Jim Brock is managing editor of the Nebraska City News-Press. He can be reached at email@example.com.