Bully pulpit

Letters to the Boston editor, April 23, 2010
By BOSTON PHOENIX LETTERS  |  April 21, 2010

While I understand, appreciate, and respect the First Amendment and our right to speak freely, in the case of bullying, Harvey Silverglate makes a dangerous assumption that “civilized people, even teenagers can intuit the difference between protected speech and criminal harassment.” Sadly, there are far too many examples that disprove his theory. Whether it is ignorance or a blatant disregard between right and wrong, our society is far too crowded with people that have not made the connection.

Bullying has taken on a new and far more dangerous form than the “sometimes messy exchanges that mark free society,” as Silverglate reports. When someone is singled out and ganged up on, not just in school or on the playground but over the Internet, the result can be like dropping a lit match in a barn full of hay.

Further, Silverglate’s claim that “teachers and principals . . . should be fired, not trained” if they cannot recognize such behavior is absurd. How can we expect them to know what is being spread over the Internet unless they are made aware or have the ability to access every student’s social-networking account? This is something that falls squarely on the shoulders of parents.

I am quite certain that those that have had to endure the devastating effect of bullying have no problem with more severe punishment for those that continually engage in such activity. I, for one, am appreciative that our lawmakers are taking this issue so seriously.

Come on, Harvey — this is not about free speech. It is about protecting innocent people from being singled out and victimized.

Jonathan Ross
Brookline

We already have laws on the books addressing the problem of bullying. We also have the much older laws of humane consideration and compassion and the very basic laws of adult responsibility to protect youth from abuse and to educate them in humane responsibilities. More layers further remove us from taking responsibility and leave the innocent and the uneducated in a sociopathic no-man’s land.

Pat Curran
Cambridge

Sexual catechism
The Phoenix is mistaken, perhaps willfully so, in the editorial “The Catholic Church and Abuse.” The Catholic Church allows sex within marriage for reasons other than procreation, including as an expression of love, as well as an outlet of natural sexual desire. St. Paul says in 1 Corinthians 7:9 that it is “better to marry than to burn” — meaning to “burn” with erotic desire.

The celibacy of the Church’s priesthood is not a rejection of the value of sex, but a recognition of it. By renouncing marriage and sex, the Church’s priests and nuns demonstrate their sanctity.

It is nakedly gratuitous to drag same-sex marriage into your anti–Catholic Church rant. The belief that same-sex sex acts are sinful or to be avoided long predates Christianity.

However, these facts in no way deny that the Catholic priesthood has its own demons to exorcise in regard to the sexual abuse of children and other innocents. (By the way, I have been an atheist since I was 15, over 35 years, and was never Catholic.)

Michael Christian
Haverhill

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