Definite, specific, and concrete language has gone out of favor these days. Many young people I know use the expression, “I feel some type-a way about that,” to convey something but it’s never clear to me what way they’re feeling. “What ‘type-a way” do you mean? Feel? Think? The vagueness currently embraced often acts in complicity with this country’s obsession with sanitizing the violence it perpetuates. “Bullying” has become one of the chief terms used as a substitute for tormenting, intimidating, taunting, and threatening the lives of those perceived as vulnerable. “Bullying” connotes the actions and behavior of children and possibly teenagers who intimidate and physically, mentally, and abuse those in their peer group. When the NFL investigator Ted Wells concluded evidence of “bullying” in the Miami Dolphins locker room, I thought it absurd. Richie Incognito tormented and terrorized Jonathan Martin with racial epithets and following through on such racist logic, Incognito insisted that he and Martin were friends; like one of the family–his good and faithful servant.
When I first read about the heinous acts of seven players on the Sayersville War Memorial High School football team in New Jersey, the term initially used to describe upperclassmen groping, holding down at least one boy and penetrating him with their fingers and then into the victim’s mouth “bullying,” I found it insulting to the victims. Those boys weren’t merely bullied or hazed–the other term of choice–they were RAPED! Perhaps understanding these crimes as “bullying” explains the frustration of parents who strongly oppose the Superintendent’s decision to cancel the Bombers football season. Some parents claimed that punishing the team because of the actions of seven players was unfair to the innocent ones. Apparently, such violence had become a part of the culture of that locker room so I think it is reasonable that this entire culture needs to bear the weight of or at least come to terms with their role in maintaining this perverse ecosystem–this Hobbesian state of nature. Maybe those “innocent” team members need to spend time working to create a civil, ethical, and empathetic environment supportive of all those children and parents who must be greatly suffering as a result of a cultural ethos that supports rape culture at their school.
In addition to “bullying,” the term “incident,” also has me reeling. Thus, when Darren Wilson shot and killed Michael Brown, “incident” was the term often used to describe the slaying of this unarmed child. George Zimmerman’s lethal shooting of Trayvon Martin also falls under the title of “incident.” The deadly force police officers used against Aiyana Stanley-Jones, Oscar Grant, Jordan Davis, Vonderictt Myers, Ervin Jefferson, Malissa Williams and Tim Russell (137 shots), Kendrec McDade, and Kimani Gray–just to name a few–have all been described as “incidents.” When it comes to precision these day, I’m beginning to trust cartoon artists more than journalists. These cartoons are very clear:
Cartoon artists appear to value precision far more than journalists. Instead of being vague and abstruse like journalists and politicians, these artists, cartoon artists, are clear, direct, and precise in their witness.