Archive for violence

How to Fix the Bully Problem

Posted in current events with tags , , , , , on August 16, 2010 by Kyle Fleming

On the morning of 11 August, I turned on the TV to see a story that has sadly become an all too common story: 11-year-old Ty Field was being bullied, so severely and so relentlessly that he felt his only way to escape it was to commit suicide. It’s the same story that happened a few years ago to Megan Meier, who was bullied over MySpace to the point where she hanged herself in her closet.

In fact, a simple Google search of “bully suicide” produces nearly 1.7 million hits. Story after story about teenage kids bullied to the point where they have no other choice but to kill themselves. Stories about kids like Phoebe Prince, who killed herself after being tormented by a clique of high school girls; or Jon Carmichael, who killed himself after being bullied by most of his school; or even Jared High, who killed himself in 1998 because of bullying. A website about Jared links to several other kids and teens who have committed suicide due to bullying.

In the MSNBC interview I saw with Ty’s father, the question was asked, “Why are so many kids committing suicide today? What is different about your generation than this generation?”

The response was, “Part of it is all of these violent video games.” I cursed out loud.

As someone who was bullied in my younger days (and at times am still bullied today), I can assure everyone that it is not violent video games that make people violent. It does not desensitize people to violence, it doesn’t create violent people. Study after study after study has proven that there is no link between violence and video games. It is a foolish assumption that television, movies, video games, and music can completely change a person’s character. Violent people are predisposed to violence.

But Ty’s father continued his answer: “It is also the technology of the age. Bullies are now able to torment their victims 24/7.”

I immediately apologized. It was the wisest thing I’ve heard about bullying yet. Technologies like Facebook and MySpace, which are accessible whenever, along with Internet anonymity, provide a whole new avenue of bullying which has never been seen before. Anyone can be anyone else and can say whatever they want, and they feel like there are no consequences.

Lori Drew, when creating a fake MySpace account, thought she would just mess with Megan Meier to get back at Megan for spreading rumors about her daughter. The result was suicide.

How do we solve the problem of bullying? Short answer: we can’t.

We can’t because as of right now, there is no concrete definition of “bullying.” The definition we have is: “act of repeated aggressive behavior in order to intentionally hurt another person, physically or mentally.”

This happens every day, not out of hatred, and not out of abuse, but out of kids being kids. Kids will hate other kids over stupid things, and as a result, they will make fun of and torment other kids. It happens, and it only gets out of control when people don’t intervene.

But who should intervene? The schools are doing all they can, and there is a stigma of being a snitch when reporting instances of bullying.

Like most problems with children, the responsibility lies in the parents. Parents should make sure that they are raising kids in a positive environment, and to notice when their kids are not quite right. Kids don’t just wake up one morning and are violent, just like they just don’t wake up one morning and swear. It comes from somewhere, and many times, it comes from the home.

Ty’s father said, “No one sits at the dinner table and talks anymore.” Shouldn’t we get back to that?

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Thoughts on Islam

Posted in opinion, religion with tags , , , , on April 28, 2010 by Kyle Fleming

I previewed Monday’s post on a website I frequent called The Young Writers Society. It’s an excellent website where writers aged 13-25 can post works of fiction, non-fiction, poetry, scripts, photographs, and other forms of art to be critiqued by the members. It’s a “peer-review” sort of website, and one that has helped me improve my writing immensely. I’m doing my part as a member to promote the site, if only because I see it as really beneficial.

What I was hoping to find by posting Monday’s entry on my YWS blog was a few replies, if any, from other South Park fans. What I didn’t realize was that there were some strong sentiments on either side, each being played out in the comments of my blog.

The point of Monday’s post (which on this blog has a different ending than the YWS version), was that it is wrong to censor yourself out of fear. I was in no way attacking the Muslim faith, and I was in no way meaning to offend anyone. But the topic of offense and censorship is another post. This post will focus on the religion of Islam, its beliefs, and my personal opinion about the religion.

The beliefs of Islam are fairly straightforward. Muslims believe that there is only one God, Allah, and that Muhammad was his prophet. They acknowledge Jesus as a prophet, but not the Son of God, as they believe that worshipping Jesus is akin to polytheism. God does not beget, nor is he begotten.

The Prophet Muhammad, in the Muslim faith, is not the creator of a “new religion,” but rather resurrecting the faith of Adam, Abraham, Jesus, and others. In his life, Muhammad converted many people to Islam, and peacefully and successfully took over Mecca. He died at the age of 63.

Only God knows when He will return to Earth and save His people, and only He knows who will be saved and who won’t. Muslims believe that everything that happens in the world happens for a reason, that it has all been planned out, and we must go with the flow and accept the consequences as the way life is supposed to go.

The Five Pillars of the Islamic faith are testifying that there is only one God worthy of worship and that Muhammad is God’s prophet, praying five times a day facing Mecca, the giving of alms, fasting during the month of Ramadan, and making a pilgrimage to Mecca if you’re able.

As far as jihad is concerned, there are many different forms. The most common form is the “greater jihad”, the inner struggle in dealing with sin and cleansing one’s self. However, unless otherwise defined, jihad is a militant struggle, using violence to defend and expand the religion of Islam.

While this information was found on Wikipedia, examining the sources cited showed that this information is as accurate as can be. Looking overall, the Islamic faith is one that is fairly peaceful. The beliefs are similar to the beliefs of Judaism and Christianity. And overall, the religion appears peaceful. However, just like with all social groups, there are extremists, and it is the extremists that make a bad name for the group as a whole.

Many times, the only exposure people have to the Muslim faith is through the extremists: 9/11, the Fort Hood shootings, and any shot of Iraqis in the mainstream media. So it’s not surprising that the common perception of Muslims are violent, humorless, miserable people who want nothing more than to pick a fight.

One of the comments on the YWS version of Monday’s post from a user named “Snoink” struck me as purely common sense:

Although definitely not Muslim, I am Catholic, so therefore I believe in Eucharistic transubstantiation…. So doing bad things to the host is really really really bad. And yet, if someone used the host in art, even in a way that is horrifying to me, I’m rather limited. I mean, I can and will defend the host… but murder? No.

Is South Park art? Well… if it’s creating this much of a fuss, then yes. After all, art is a revolution.

The point of this post is to show that I’m not “anti-Muslim,” but rather am looking for an explanation. The Muslim community’s reaction to the South Park episode aired last week was unwanted and intimidating, but to them, it is part of their faith.

A Muslim man, the one who runs the website Revolution Muslim and posted the threat to Matt Stone’s and Trey Parker’s lives, is quoted in a CNN interview saying that Qur’an explicitly states that non-believers should be terrorized for believing the wrong thing.

This man openly praises the acts of Osama bin Laden and the Fort Hood shooter, and it is because his faith says that the lesser jihad of violence and militantism is a group effort. The whole must support the one. And to me, that is disgusting and wrong.

I don’t hate Islam. I try my best to be open to all things, even those things that offend me. And in America, you’re going to get offended, no doubt about that. Don’t let religion throw you into a blind rage because you found something offensive. Don’t become violent and threaten murder because of something that offended you. Rather, be calm, civilized, and state your case. It could be the difference between life and death.

Islam v. South Park: Who Went Too Far?

Posted in opinion, pop culture with tags , , , , , , , , on April 26, 2010 by Kyle Fleming

It’s a well-known fact that I’m a huge fan of the show South Park on Comedy Central. Of all the shows on television, I feel that this show is spectacular in that it is a no-holds-barred look at anything and everything in the world. Nothing is off-limits: religion, pop culture, even celebrity deaths are mocked every week. South Park says what no one else will, making it the most hilarious and honest show on television.

But the two most recent episodes of South Park (creatively titled “200” and “201”) were frustrating to me, because despite the fact that the show and its creators, Matt Stone and Trey Parker, pride themselves in making fun of everybody, Comedy Central dropped the ball on redefining the culture.

A quick synopsis of the situation: In honor of their 200th episode, South Park decided to call back every celebrity they ever made fun of. The story goes that Tom Cruise comes to South Park to go “fly fishing” (which is actually working at a candy factory in the fudge department). Stan, while on a class trip to the candy factory, sees Tom Cruise and observes that he’s a “fudge packer.” Cruise gets upset and decides to sue South Park along with the rest of his celebrity friends.

In an effort to drop the lawsuit, Randy pleads with Cruise, promising to bring anyone he wanted into South Park to drop the lawsuit. Cruise calls for Muhammad, prophet of the Muslim faith. The next two episodes follow the saga of trying to give Muhammad to the celebrities (to get his “goo” so that they can no longer be made fun of), while at the same time trying not to have the town destroyed by the Gingers, and finding out who Cartman’s father really is.

The two-part episode went out of its way to make fun of everything and everyone, and the first episode went off without a hitch: a few censored images of Muhammad here, a few shots of the townspeople looking up to the sky for bombs there, and a perfect cliffhanger for next week.

It was only when a message on the website Revolution Islam (now not working) did things start to get a little scary. Coupled with the picture of Theo Van Gogh, the filmmaker who was shot and nearly decapitated on the streets of Amsterdam after making a film about Islam’s mistreatment of women, the message for Matt and Trey said, “We have to warn Matt and Trey that what they are doing is stupid and they will probably wind up like Theo Van Gogh for airing this show. This is not a threat, but a warning of the reality of what will likely happen to them.”

It was after this threat that “201” became completely different. Every mention of Muhammad was censored. Even at the end, when the show goes into its formulaic “I’ve learned something today” section, the entire moral of the story was bleeped out. The last few minutes of the show was one gigantic tone, interrupted with, “I’ve learned something today,” “That’s right, Kyle,” and “Absolutely.”

At first, watching it, and digesting it for a while, I figured it was some huge joke, a commentary on doing whatever it takes to not offend anyone. I had no idea what was behind the huge bleeps, but I figured it was nothing important, and laughed at the ridiculousness of the situation.

Then, on the front page of the South Park Studios website, was this message from Matt and Trey (emphasis mine):

In the 14 years we’ve been doing South Park we have never done a show that we couldn’t stand behind. We delivered our version of the show to Comedy Central and they made a determination to alter the episode. It wasn’t some meta-joke on our part. Comedy Central added the bleeps. In fact, Kyle’s customary final speech was about intimidation and fear. It didn’t mention Muhammad at all but it got bleeped too. We’ll be back next week with a whole new show about something completely different and we’ll see what happens to it.

Matt Stone and Trey Parker were doing what they do best: mocking the world around them. And Comedy Central, the station that supported this behavior for 14 years, suddenly didn’t want to offend anyone.

The situation reminded me of an article I read a few weeks back called Nothing is Exempt from Criticism. It’s a short article about how nothing is so special that it can’t be criticized, but the point of the article is expressed in these two paragraphs:

Furthermore, why should anything be exempt from criticism? Criticism is the most important pillar of modern society. Without criticism, how would we sort the good ideas from the [bad] ones? Without criticizing the inane…, how do we ever improve anything?

If you criticize an idea, and it stands its ground against your remarks, then it’s probably not too bad of an idea…. On the other hand, if you have an idea and it falls apart in the face of criticism, don’t get indignant and claim that your idea deserves special treatment. It’s a stupid idea…. Trash it already.

Islam, like any other religion, is not exempt from being made fun of. If it is part of the world, it is able to be made fun of. What should be interesting to note in all of this is that in 2001, South Park showed an image of the prophet Muhammad, a member of the religious superhero group “The Super Best Friends.” He was fully seen, spoke a few lines, and showed off his power of fire. Nothing happened, and no one was offended.

It appears that the religion of Islam is one of the most vocal and violent religions when they get offended. The threats and the violence are over the top and not necessary. Christians and Jews get mocked constantly, and the level of offensiveness with these mockings know no bounds. Yet there are very few instances of Christians or Jews getting so offended that they explode in violence, and the wide difference between these two worlds is striking. Make a few Holocaust jokes, and the Jews are upset. Mention Muhammad in an off-color joke not even about Islam, and people are brutally murdered on the streets.

This post isn’t to tear down Islam. Rather, this post is about not being fearful of speaking your mind. To paraphrase Jon Stewart in the opening of Thursday’s episode of the Daily Show: The Muslim extremists that are in America are free to practice their religion, praise Osama bin Laden, celebrate the anniversary of 9/11, and nearly anything else they want to do, because they are given that freedom in the Constitution. However, that freedom is a two-way street: sure, they can say or do whatever they want, but they must also respect the fact that the rest of America has the freedom to mock them, and not use fear and intimidation to inhibit those freedoms.

If you want to have limited freedom of speech, stay in the Middle East.

Kudos goes to Matt Stone, Trey Parker, and everyone who works at South Park, for continuing to push the envelope, and for not going with the flow when your art is compromised. Keep up the good work.

Coming soon will be separate posts about Islam in general and Censorship. Keep watching, and thanks for reading.

Enough is Enough

Posted in current events, politics with tags , , , , on March 26, 2010 by Kyle Fleming

Republicans, Tea Party protesters, conservatives: This has gone too far.

I get that you’re upset about the passage of the health care reform bill. I get that you didn’t like some of the language in the bill. I get that you didn’t like how the bill was “shoved down your throats,” even though this was 100 years in progress, and major campaigning had been going on for a year.

What I don’t get is how inappropriate, violent, and childish this backlash has been. Take a look at what’s been going on since the health care bill was passed:

  • Two different people on Twitter called for the assassination of Barack Obama.
  • Rep. Bart Stupak got an obscene voice mail, calling him a “baby-killing motherf___er” and hoping that he “bleeds out [his] ass, gets cancer, and dies.”
  • Rep. Louise Slaughter had a brick thrown through her window and a voicemail threatening to have snipers kill all of the children of people who voted for the bill.

This has to stop. This is absolutely unacceptable. I get that there was a better way to go around getting health care reform, but there is also a better way to go around voicing your discomfort.

People had their qualms with President Bush when he was in office. And I’ll even admit that I had a few choice words for the man every so often. But nobody threw bricks, nobody left voicemails, and definitely nobody so publicly and adamantly called for his assassination!

Where have our heads gone? What kind of world has this turned into that everything that is said is taken at face value, and that no thought goes into our actions anymore?

And these aren’t rebellious teenagers! The stereotypical demographic that would be causing this much destruction and mayhem are actually the peaceful once! It’s older Americans, people over 40 years old, that are acting like children, throwing tantrums like children do, and making nuisances of themselves.

The main argument I keep hearing from people is that as taxpayers, they don’t want to pay for abortions, the way the new health care bill proposes. Guess what? As tax payers, you’re already paying for stuff you don’t even realize you’re paying for. This website lays out where taxes currently go:

32% Social Security, Medicare and Other Retirement

  • Income support for retired and disabled persons
  • Medical care for the elderly
23% National Defense, Veterans and Foreign Affairs

  • Equip, modernize and pay our armed forces
  • Fund national defense activities
  • Veterans benefits and services
  • Military and economic assistance to foreign countries
  • Maintenance of our embassies abroad
19% Social Programs

  • Medicaid
  • Food stamps
  • Health programs
  • Unemployment compensation
  • Assisted housing and social programs
8% Net interest on the debt

  • Interest payments on the national debt
12% Physical, Human and Community Development

  • Agricultural programs
  • Natural resources and environment programs
  • Transportation programs
  • Aid for elementary and secondary education
  • Direct assistance to college students Space, energy and general science programs
2% Law Enforcement and General Government

  • Federal law enforcement
  • Prisons
  • General costs of the federal government
  • Collection of taxes and legislative activities

I’m a taxpayer. I don’t want to pay for military support, because I don’t feel we should be a warring nation. But I pay it anyway. I also pay for illegal immigrants to use the emergency rooms at hospitals. I don’t want to, but I pay it anyway. I don’t want to pay for prisons or unemployment, but I have to, because that’s what taxpayers do.

This is the only con I’m hearing. I don’t want my taxes to go toward something I oppose.

Too bad.

There are much better pros to the whole thing: better health care, more available treatments, better insurance, and so on and so forth.

You say you love America, but you can’t even help your fellow Americans. It’s pathetic. It’s horrific. It’s unChristian.

Something must be done, and it starts with the American people. Find better ways to express your disgust. Write a Congressperson, makes phone calls, campaign.

Don’t be losers, throwing bricks, making obscene phone calls and death threats. And for God’s sake, if you’re going to “threaten” to move out of the country, do so. Find out for yourself how well you have it here.

Words cannot describe how disgusted I am with you people. Shame on you. From the bottom of my heart: shame, shame on you.