Opinion

Don’t jump on hate bandwagon over boys in AOC photo. Use it as a teachable moment.

Photo slideshow: Fancy Farm Picnic 2019

Thousands of people attended the St. Jerome Catholic Church Picnic in Fancy Farm, Kentucky, Saturday, Aug. 3, 2019. Music: https://www.bensound.com
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Thousands of people attended the St. Jerome Catholic Church Picnic in Fancy Farm, Kentucky, Saturday, Aug. 3, 2019. Music: https://www.bensound.com

I, like many of your readers, recently viewed a photo of some local school boys trending on social media. I find myself disheartened this morning not only by the contents of the photo, but also much of the response across the country. I want to make it very clear I do not condone the activity of the boys in this photo and I am in full support of appropriate disciplinary action. I know I will likely face backlash from the following opinion, but I could not sit quietly by another day and watch the mistakes of children be used for political gain. What should be a correctable and teachable moment in the lives of these boys has now turned into something entirely different.

In the interest of transparency, I would like to note that while I live in the same community, I do not personally know any of the boys or their families. I am a mother of three children, two of whom attend the same school as these boys.

Gone are the days when young people can just make mistakes. Last evening, my brother in Baltimore spoke of his own teenage offenses but was quick to counter that none of which was severe enough to make national headlines. It is his belief that what these boys did was so disgusting, it is deserving of the wrath and judgment heaped upon them by thousands. I must remind him that most of us were raised in an era when teenage mistakes were done without the watchful eye of a little thing called social media. Thankfully, I grew up in an era when you could seriously mess up without millions knowing within hours of doing so. Only the most grievous offenses garnered national attention. One might be addressed by parents, extended relatives, coaches, teachers, church members and/or close neighbors. Rarely on a large scale or for political gain.

Again, in the interest of transparency, I must confess that I was a difficult teenager (just ask my mother). I said and did things that were downright horrific. I was at times a miserable, vile, and unhappy person. I cringe at the mere thought of myself now. I also smoked Marlboro Lights outside of coffee houses and planned to spend my adulthood as a poet in Paris. My point is, none of which are qualities I took into adulthood. I no longer smoke (or write poetry). While I still make mistakes daily, fortunately, with age has come wisdom. And compassion. And empathy. And tolerance. And because I require enormous amounts of grace, I try to extend that to others around me.

It is my hope that this community, regardless of your political affiliation, will rally around these boys and their families as they navigate the coming weeks. Everyone responsible for raising children, across both aisles, be reminded these kids are growing up in a time where all bets are off and everyone is fair game. They are literally living under a microscope recording every word and action. Photographing and videoing for all the world to see. Children do not understand the ramifications of living in a social media age. It is our job as adults to not only correct bad behavior in real time, but also to protect kids from future media exploitation. It’s easy to jump on the hate bandwagon. All the while believing this would never happen to your child. Don’t be so fooled. Please know that any one of us could find ourselves in a similar position.

Sibby Duff of Lexington is a wife and mother of three children. She has been a neonatal nurse practitioner for the past 10 years.

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