Those Are Fightin’ Words!

I got up this morning and was reading the news blips from the New York Times (no, I don’t always — just today) and there was an article about the PS 22 kids who sang at the Oscars and some guy at the Bravo Network who gave them a scathing review.

“Andy Cohen, a senior vice president for programming at Bravo and the network’s main public face, savaged their performance of “Over the Rainbow” on MSNBC’s “Morning Joe” on Tuesday?

Mr. Cohen called the performance “awful” and “horrible.”

“A public school chorus singing ‘Somewhere Over the Rainbow,’ ” he marveled. “I literally — if I wasn’t going to go out to some parties I would have slit ’em right then. It was the worst. I was looking for a knife to stick in my eyes, it was so terrible.”

Apparently, when the kids got off the plane back to NY, the question the local media wanted to know what the kids thought of the guy’s remarks. The director of the group responded by saying that a man who picks on 10 year olds to get attention has got problems.

The Times article went on to say, “Mr. Cohen, for his part, issued an apology Tuesday night on the Bravo show he hosts, “Watch What Happens Live.” “Those P.S. 22 choir kids did not deserve that,” he said. “Heck, I am a product of public education. Anyway, I am sorry.”

You know, dude, that apology doesn’t cut it. Not now, not ever. Let me get this straight — you say you want to injur yourself due to their performance, and “oh, shucks, I’m sorry” is your response?  No. That’s not it. “I will be stepping down immediately” should be your response. They are kids, for God’s sake! Are you an idiot? Forget that you went to public school. It’s not about that. Remember that you were a kid once and how much words hurt!  Do you remember the phrase “pick on someone your own size”? You’re a snarky little bully whose words will destroy these kids’ memories of an extremely cool event. What may well be the biggest memory of their lives is ruined by your statements and all you can say is something like an apology? No.  That’s not enough.

We in America speak all the time of “the decline of civility” and how much the  “panders to our basest instincts”. This is a prime example of what’s wrong with our media and culture. If Jimmy the Greek can get fired for saying something about Blacks and Imus can can get fired for saying something about Black women basketball players, if people can get fired for making slurs against gays, hispanics, women, right-wing extremists, or any other group, this man should lose his job for hurting kids.

This is different. It’s not a philosophical construct about poisoning the air with slurs, it’s child abuse — and for that, the man should resign. These particular children are particularly hurt. Having a job where you pick on someone else’s creativity is bad enough. That’s adult bullying for money. I don’t get that, either. Still, adults can reasonably be assumed to handle it — maybe. Words hurt. There is no getting around that. Period.

But criticizing children, publicly, for money? That should not be tolerated. I don’t like it when a parent humiliates their kid in the line at the grocery store because that’s public and you can see the child’s self-worth shrink before your very eyes. Why would you do that? Multiply that by however many people watched this man’s show and pay him for it? That’s unconscionable.

Why would any adult crush a child’s soul? OK, maybe that’s too harsh, but maybe it’s not, either. Parents, teachers, and adults in the media, let’s have a moratorium on criticizing kids’ performances. If someone is under 18, they should be untouched by the adult world’s opinion of them publicly. I am all for free speech, but let’s not be idiots. Saying a child’s behavior is wrong is a different matter. The kids at Columbine brought death to our world. They deserve our scorn. The kids at PS 22 were trying to bring joy to it. They deserve our praise.

How can we expect  decorum or decency from our kids if we never show them any? How can we expect anything but a Jerry Springer world which panders to our basest instincts if we don’t give people a time where we are civil to them? That time used to be childhood, or should have been, for most people.  I see the scars of verbal abuse every single day in my office. It comes back to bite families when these kids are adults. It hurts the child when they are adolescents and it sucks the life out of them if they are children, dependent on their parent’s love as they are.

I teach people to forgive in therapy all the time, and I believe in forgiveness, but I know, too, that the damage has been done and that scars heal, but they are still ugly marks on a child’s soul. The children at PS 22 would do well to forgive the man at Bravo for what he said, but they should never think it didn’t hurt. It did. The toothpaste can’t be put back in the tube. Pandora’s box cannot be closed. We could save so much trouble in the world if we could remember that.





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