A few days ago, four 7th grade boys mounted a verbal assault against their 68-year-old bus monitor. Someone captured the sad event on a cell phone video that’s gone viral. Karen Klein’s ill-treatment has sparked international outrage. Nearly a half million dollars has been raised to send this grandmother on the vacation she deserves.
People treating other people badly for their own entertainment is not new.
I’ve spent the past few days digging into a favorite pastime of third century Romans… the gladiator games. That ancient civilization loved to pit the weak against the strong. They thought the bloodshed of innocents a great sport.
Watching Karen defend herself in this video reminded me of the defenseless men and women trapped in the arena as the laughing masses looked on and did nothing.
Note Karen’s body language (warning the video is tough to watch). At first, this seasoned grandmother tries to ignore the taunts, but her body language tells you even the first strike landed a painful blow. She lifts her chin, crosses her arms over her core, and turns her head away from the onslaught. As the jabs continue, wounding deeper with each thrust, being trapped between the seats becomes more unbearable. She offers quick, short, controlled verbal responses. But she’s pushed into a corner and can’t get out. She rubs her eyes, and then her face. She grabs the seat for support. Eventually, she cannot restrain the tears.
Don’t you just want to stop the bus and let some teenagers have it? I’m sure there were other kids on the bus who felt the same way I do. Maybe even the bus driver. Then why didn’t they do anything?
Edmund Burke said, “The only thing necessary for the triumph of evil is for good men to do nothing.”
The human response to evil fascinates me. My stories investigate why some people run from trouble and why others find unfathomable courage, throw back their shoulders, and stare it down.
What would you have done if you’d been on the bus with Karen?