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The video of bus monitor Karen Klein being bullied by a quartet of schoolboys went viral after one of them posted cellphone video on his Facebook page. The response was one of overwhelming outrage and an outpouring of support, with $500,000 raised online to help send Ms. Klein on a vacation.

More than $500,000 has now been raised online for a 68-year-old school bus monitor from Rochester, N.Y., after a cellphone video went viral this week, showing a group of seventh-grade boys on the school bus brutally mocking and taunting her.
School district officials said they had received more than 1,000 calls and at least 5,000 e-mails from people all over the world, with many expressing dismay over the incident. On Friday night, local and school officials are planning a community gathering with Ms. Klein to show support for her and to publicly take a stand against bullying.

Charles Blow in his column today talks about the greater meaning of this incident and what it says about our society today.

But what, if anything, does this say about society at large? Many things one could argue, but, for me, it is a remarkably apt metaphor for this moment in the American discourse in which hostility has been drawn out into the sunlight.

Those boys are us, or at least too many of us: America at its ugliest. It is that part of society that sees the weak and vulnerable as worthy of derision and animus.

This kind of behavior is not isolated to children and school buses and suburban communities. It stretches to the upper reaches of society — our politics and our pulpits and our public squares.

Whether it is a Republican debate audience booing a gay soldier or Rush Limbaugh’s vicious attack on a female Georgetown law student or Newt Gingrich’s salvos at the poor, bullying has become boilerplate. Hiss and taunt. Tease and intimidate. Target your enemies and torture them mercilessly. Maintain primacy through predation.

Those boys are not us. But they are some of us. Specifically, Mitt Romney. This was Mitt Romney as a boy. He is the boys on the bus and Karen Klein is John Lauber, and Mitt's other victims. Further accounts of Romney's pranks have been revealed but have garnered less attention. Mitt's father George in a 1970 speech spoke about another head shaving incident Mitt engaged in while attending college at Stanford. Since the elder Romney spoke about this incident publicly, one can only assume he found this to be a positive example of his son's behavior.
Mr. Romney’s shaving incident, which his father, former Michigan Governor George Romney revealed in a 1970 speech, occurred while he was a student at Stanford. The elder Mr. Romney said Mitt and his friends lured students from the University of California into a trap where they “shaved their heads and painted them red.”
And yet another account of Mitt's hijinks and pranks was revealed by the Washington Post. George Keele, who served as a Mormon missionary in France with Mr. Romney in the 1960′s, described a home invasion prank to the Post:

“One night in Bayonne, in southern France, Keele answered a knock on the door and saw two men, their faces hidden by sheets, ordering him in French to put his hands behind his back, turn around and not utter a word. Keele fled out the back door only to hear Romney, his mask removed, laughing uproariously in the house.”
And the point of the article is not that Mitt should be running in shame from these incidents but rather, that his friends are troubled that this 'lighter side of Mitt' is not getting more attention.
Like many people who knew Romney in the past, Keele has a hard time recognizing the candidate on the trail.

“Mitt Romney is capable of relaxing,” he said. “The stiffness that people see is simply Mitt trying too hard.”

Ultimately, Christensen thinks Romney is trapped in a sort of Catch-22. He is clearly at pains trying to relate to an electorate that does not share his wealth or upbringing, but voters seem unwilling to let Romney be the wealthy, devout, model family man that his supporters describe.

Clearly the overwhelming success of the fund drive indicates that this incident hit a nerve with the American public. Viewers of the bus bullying incident were rightly outraged and moved to action with an outpouring of empathy. But the American electorate should look at their Republican Presidential candidate this election season, and in him see the Bully On The Bus, and ask themselves if they want that boy to be Bully in Chief.
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Comment Preferences

  •  $500,000 to (1+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    marykk

    "help send her on a vacation"? I think that a half million dollars should cover the entire vacation, and then some. Maybe vacations for life. And a new school bus, made by Bentley.

    •  yeah, they exceeded the goal of (5+ / 0-)

      $5,000 by a little. :-) Goes to show you how good at heart people are and if they give it a little thought, might not want this bully as President.

      "I'm sculpting now. Landscapes mostly." ~ Yogi Bear

      by eXtina on Sat Jun 23, 2012 at 09:56:40 AM PDT

      [ Parent ]

      •  It is too much money. (0+ / 0-)

        It makes it look like she profited from the ordeal, in a big way. It's just excessive.

        •  I'm sure it will be donated to charity (2+ / 0-)
          Recommended by:
          joe wobblie, marykk

          or she will start a bullying education outreach program or similar.

          "I'm sculpting now. Landscapes mostly." ~ Yogi Bear

          by eXtina on Sat Jun 23, 2012 at 10:07:30 AM PDT

          [ Parent ]

        •  That's the biggest problem you have with this (5+ / 0-)

          whole thing? Seriously?

          "I'm sculpting now. Landscapes mostly." ~ Yogi Bear

          by eXtina on Sat Jun 23, 2012 at 10:09:00 AM PDT

          [ Parent ]

          •  No, it's the smallest problem. (2+ / 0-)
            Recommended by:
            eXtina, Vera Lofaro

            But a problem nonetheless.

            •  @eXtina: (1+ / 0-)
              Recommended by:
              eXtina

              I wouldn't worry too much about doc2.  This is the kind of person who takes the side of child molesters (if you take a look at his comments on the Sandusky case).  I'm not surprised that doc2's main concern w/ the despicable bullying of an elderly bus monitor who earns $15,000/yr was that an overwhelming number of people were sympathetic to her.

          •  ... The bullies on the bus (3+ / 0-)
            Recommended by:
            eXtina, blueoasis, gustynpip

            were young boys behaving very badly.  Their vile behavior reflects directly on their parents!
            It is NOT accreditable to an elderly lady who probably is in need to supplement her income because she still needs to work in order to survive; even after working hard all her life.   Many fine people were aware of her plight and behaved
            in a wonderful and charitable manner towards her....
            To learn someone actually ascribes a profit motive to a poor old lady and accuses her of 'excessive' behavior, is not only objectionable, but is indicative of his OWN gutter-level Romney style of abysmal ethics and morals.
             

            ! The swinistic greed and racial hatred of the American ruling elite is abysmal !

            by joe wobblie on Sat Jun 23, 2012 at 11:10:24 AM PDT

            [ Parent ]

            •  I don't think it is respectful (0+ / 0-)

              toward older people to assume that they aren't just as capable as the rest of us are. What do we know here? We know that she was in the wrong job (no way is she the right person to be in charge of disciplining a bunch of kids) and we know that she is now rich because of how sympathetic people are of her plight. I'm not sure how anyone could think that a half million dollars is not an excessive amount of compensation for her.

              •  She probably had very little leverage (3+ / 0-)
                Recommended by:
                eXtina, doc2, joe wobblie

                With which to discipline.  What should she do?  Yell at them?  Call their parents?  Would they have cared?  How many things did she try before this incident that the boys thought should be filmed and posted on the internet because they wanted to show off their behavior?  When kids are not taught respect for other people, when parents excuse rude and raucous behavior by saying "boys will be boys" there is little a bus monitor can actually do.  She is supposed to be there for safety reasons, not to teach these boys how to behave appropriately in public.  They should already know that by grade seven.

              •  doc2, she didn't ask for the money (2+ / 0-)
                Recommended by:
                eXtina, joe wobblie

                will she accept it, probably, and then she won't have to put up with that abuse any longer, because unless we change things in our society and make this type of bulling and disrespect unacceptable, completely unacceptable, it will happen over and over again.

            •  Some folks just can not get past blaming (2+ / 0-)
              Recommended by:
              eXtina, joe wobblie

              the victim. Perhaps you have not seen the right wing trying to dig up shit on Trayvon Martin just to prove that he deserved to be shot to death.

        •  It's not like she asked for this. Geez. Give (1+ / 0-)
          Recommended by:
          eXtina

          the woman a break.  Someone else tried to get her $5,000 for a vacation and so many people felt so badly, it turned into $500,000.  It was not intended to make her "profit".  I say more power to her if she's able to retire wiith this rather than having to continue working as a fricking bus monitor as age 68.

          "If you trust you are not critical; if you are critical you do not trust" by our own Dauphin

          by gustynpip on Sat Jun 23, 2012 at 12:32:08 PM PDT

          [ Parent ]

    •  Typical of these people, while (1+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:
      eXtina

      I am encouraged by the outpouring of support Grandma Kliene has recieved, isn't it typical of America to simply throw money at a problem, rather than getting at the root of it.
      Blow nailed it in his column today. I bet some of those people who are so outraged about Grandma Kliene's treatment  by these kids, are the same people who listen to Limbaugh each day for 3 hours and then spend the rest of their day tuned into Fox and listen to the bullying that goes on there as well. I wonder if a certian Congressman whose name starts with an I an ends with Issa, is upset by the treatment Grandma K. received, while he thinks is is perfectly acceptable to show the A.G. of the U.S. disrespect and call him a "liar". Or if the G.O.P. Senators who demanded Holder's resignation feel bad for the bullied Grandmother.
      How do we expect these middle school kids to realize what they are doing is so very wrong, when every single day, there are examples of bullying going on on the public airwaves and in the halls of Congress. Oh but those kids don't watch that stuff, it doesn't matter, if our society accepts that lack of respect and does nothing to change, what the hell can you expect from 12, 13 and 14 year old, who at least when some of them saw the video felt remorse, that is more than I have heard from Limbaugh and Hannity, or from Issa and Croynan

  •  What bothers me re: Lady Bus Monitor.Taking her (2+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    eXtina, doc2

    away from her job and sending her on vacation makes it seem as if the boys won this round.  Will her replacement Bus Monitor be treated the same way?  Nothing is required of the students to change their behavior.  

    •  they are also doing the community gathering to (4+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:
      joe wobblie, marykk, drmah, blueoasis

      Speak out against bullying and will be disciplining the boys

      "I'm sculpting now. Landscapes mostly." ~ Yogi Bear

      by eXtina on Sat Jun 23, 2012 at 10:25:49 AM PDT

      [ Parent ]

    •  bus monitors (3+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:
      eXtina, joe wobblie, blueoasis

      need to be equipped with video phones, quite obviously.

      Words can sometimes, in moments of grace, attain the quality of deeds. --Elie Wiesel

      by a gilas girl on Sat Jun 23, 2012 at 10:30:20 AM PDT

      [ Parent ]

      •  What is a bus monitor anyhow? (1+ / 0-)
        Recommended by:
        Vera Lofaro

        When I was a kid we had a bus driver. No monitor.

        •  No school age kids at home? (3+ / 0-)
          Recommended by:
          eXtina, joe wobblie, blueoasis

          We didn't have bus monitors either, but we also had exceedingly short bus routes and not not particularly crowded buses.  And there wasn't an epidemic of bullying going on.  We also had far fewer adults kicking around the school environments than are around today.  This was not necessarily a good thing in my day.
          ~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~
          But in a good faith attempt to answer your question:

          Because the bus driver's job is to safely drive the bus and because there have been so many growing incidents of bad behavior, bullying, etc. on buses which is outside the purview of a person safely driving a bus to handle, bus monitors are adults whose job is is to ride along on the buses and make sure the bus environment remains safe, meaning, the bus driver is able to safely operate the bus AND no kids on the bus are being abused.

          In the job category it is a bit like "lunch monitor", only in a rolling environment rather than a serving one.  As a one-time regular school volunteer parent, schools need them.  They need the extra adult bodies in school environments.

          Words can sometimes, in moments of grace, attain the quality of deeds. --Elie Wiesel

          by a gilas girl on Sat Jun 23, 2012 at 11:02:00 AM PDT

          [ Parent ]

          •  So if that is the case, what (0+ / 0-)

            kind of bus monitor is susceptible to being bullied herself? Aren't you saying that it is her job to keep the kids in line and to prevent the bullying of others? I think she should use the 500 grand to change jobs. No bus monitor should be intimidated by a few 13-year olds.

            •  Or maybe we could get Mitt Romney to fire her (0+ / 0-)

              I think someone would have needed an AK47 to stand up to that mob.

              "I'm sculpting now. Landscapes mostly." ~ Yogi Bear

              by eXtina on Sat Jun 23, 2012 at 11:21:45 AM PDT

              [ Parent ]

            •  exactly (1+ / 0-)
              Recommended by:
              eXtina

              the school district did everyone (including this woman) a disservice by putting someone not properly prepared or able to do the job.

              That's not her fault.

              You seem to be inordinately concerned about the fact that this woman now has access to 500K.

              Why does that bother you so much?  You might stop and ask yourself why that is.

              A $500K gift from people who obviously feel very differently than you do.

              Words can sometimes, in moments of grace, attain the quality of deeds. --Elie Wiesel

              by a gilas girl on Sat Jun 23, 2012 at 12:17:16 PM PDT

              [ Parent ]

              •  So now we better put armed police officers (1+ / 0-)
                Recommended by:
                eXtina

                on all buses just in case there are some asshole 13 year olds riding it that day.

                I mean, really?  How is anyone properly prepared for a group of kids like these?  

                "If you trust you are not critical; if you are critical you do not trust" by our own Dauphin

                by gustynpip on Sat Jun 23, 2012 at 12:37:29 PM PDT

                [ Parent ]

              •  It is not surprising (2+ / 0-)
                Recommended by:
                eXtina, drmah

                That school bus companies don't extensively train their monitors.  After all they can choose from a wealth of highly trained adults with child development education, since bus monitor to middle schoolers is such desirable well-paid work with opportunities for promotion and advancement.

            •  Really? You're really going to stick with (2+ / 0-)
              Recommended by:
              jan4insight, eXtina

              working to find fault with this 68 year old woman???

              I don't know what you're problem is - or rather I do.  Your name is pretty familiar.

              Anyone is susceptible to being bullied - particularly if there are a lot more of them than of you.  It should not be anticipated that a bus monitor needs to be able to manhandle a group of kids to make them behave semi-decently.  

              I'm hoping she uses the 500 grand to retire, like she should already have been able to if this country had any sense.

              "If you trust you are not critical; if you are critical you do not trust" by our own Dauphin

              by gustynpip on Sat Jun 23, 2012 at 12:36:01 PM PDT

              [ Parent ]

              •  It's not her fault that she (0+ / 0-)

                was hired for a job she obviously is not good at. You can't be the person responsible for controlling rowdy kids if you are terrified of them. Pretty obvious stuff.

                •  You have no idea whether she's good at her (1+ / 0-)
                  Recommended by:
                  eXtina

                  job or not.  All you know is that when 4 assholes team up against her, she's not able to stop them.  Doing that is not supposed to be part of a bus monitor's job.  These were not "rowdy" kids.  Rowdy kids talk too loud, push or shove a bit, maybe grab someone's hat and toss it.  These were four bullies.  Bullies that pretty much any bus monitor would have ended up terrified of.

                  But you know what?  I know you doc2 and I'm not going to waste my time in a discussion with you.  So toodle loo.

                  "If you trust you are not critical; if you are critical you do not trust" by our own Dauphin

                  by gustynpip on Sat Jun 23, 2012 at 01:10:58 PM PDT

                  [ Parent ]

                •  She was not terrified of them, she clearly (1+ / 0-)
                  Recommended by:
                  eXtina

                  stated, she was trying to ignore them thinking it would stop. I imagine they said things that hurt her feelings, you know we all have feelings and sometimes when anyone pushes those buttons, you cry.That is what happend here, it was horrible to see a 68 year old woman subjected to such verbal abuse by these little kids, and they along with their parents should be held responsible for bad behavior. Kids are what they learn, and if you learn it is o.k. to disrespect someone who could be your Grandmother, the mounting peer pressure is not going to make it any better.

              •  I'm not finding fault with the woman at all (0+ / 0-)

                I'm finding fault with the people who didn't take the job or the need for the job seriously enough to realize they might be putting an elderly woman at risk.

                But of course, elderly women tend to come pretty cheap in labor market terms.

                Not her fault at all.

                Words can sometimes, in moments of grace, attain the quality of deeds. --Elie Wiesel

                by a gilas girl on Sun Jun 24, 2012 at 11:11:29 AM PDT

                [ Parent ]

          •  So what you are saying is because this bus (1+ / 0-)
            Recommended by:
            eXtina

            required a monitor these kids are "bad to the bone"?  If they required a monitor because they couldn't behave, I am sure this is not the first incidenet of this bullying, just the first one to be filimed.

      •  or perhaps a stun gun (1+ / 0-)
        Recommended by:
        blueoasis
  •  i believe in (1+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    eXtina

    The Law Of Karma. And someday these snotty little bastards will have to deal with bullies too. I hope Ms Klein enjoys the money and retires knowing there are people out there with hearts.

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