Monday, June 25, 2012

Karen Klein, Parental Guilt, And Cyber Victimhood.

By now, I'm sure you've all either seen or heard about the New York state bus monitor who was bullied by a bunch of preteens who were dumb enough to record the whole thing and put it on the internets.
It was just a week ago that Karen Klein was sitting on a bus enduring the teasing and taunts of a group of kids with a grace that wouldn't be recognized until days later, when a video of the incident went viral.

Now, thanks to an online fundraising effort, the upstate New York bus monitor, 68, has more than $645,275 (and counting) to her name from people – total strangers, mostly – who saw the video, heard the hurtful words and wanted to help.

"I keep thinking, 'What have I done?' " the Greece Central School District employee said during an in-studio interview on Monday's Today show. "It's like I almost don't feel like I deserve it."

The campaign, originally intended to send her off on "a vacation of a lifetime," has long surpassed its goal of $5,000.

So how will she use her money? "What would anybody do with that much money?" she said.

She'll invest some, she said, and donate to charity. The grandmother of eight has plenty of family, and "they need, they need, they need," added Klein, who isn't sure if she'll return to her job come fall.
Here's the offending video.

Here's Mrs. Klein speaking with Matt Lauer.

Let's get a couple of things out of the way first, so that the rest of this post doesn't make me sound like a total a$$hole.
1) This is wrong. These children are poorly behaved.

2) I'm not against people raising money to put this woman out of her Day Job misery.

3) This woman's child committed suicide last year. Anyone with a brain can see that she's clearly in "checked out of life" mode here. So lets not make a big deal out of her not defending herself more. It's completely understandable.
All that said, come the f*ck on, America!!!

Seriously, people get so emotionally caught up in something that they give a million dollars (that'll surely be the final tally, she was on The Today Show again this morning) for what's essentially a bunch of bad assed kids harassing an adult? Again, I'm not making light of this situation or this woman's very real pain. I just wonder why Americans are so captivated by this that they go straight to their PayPal accounts and give money like it's nothing.

I won't play Oppression Olympics here.[1] Yes, there are others who've suffered far more than the terse words of a bunch of non-home trained brats. That's not up for debate here, so please don't waste the keystrokes.

What's clear to me, is that the astounding outpouring of media attention and monetary donations is all about absolving guilt. Yes, a lot of people look at this and see a tortured grandmother, but I'm betting far more people look at this and see their own shortcomings as parents. We'd all like to believe that our kids are little angels who respect each other, themselves, and their elders, but reality is, kids are kids. I'm betting most of the parents with kids on this bus had no idea (or at least couldn't admit it to themselves) that their children could behave so boorishly. Likewise, most of the people donating money here want the same "pay it forward" sense of redemption.
"Hey, feel guilty that you might not be raising your kids to be as respectful as they could be? No worries! You too can feel better about yourself! Just give a little money to a woman you've never met via a website that might not even be reputable! It's that easy! Now go back to watching Greys Anatomy! Lil' Austin' will raise himself on SpongeBob SquarePants! Yaaay, DriveBy Activism!"
If this all confuses you, sorry, it's admittedly not a well thought out hypothesis, but hey, I'm just as puzzled as ya'll. There's gotta be an explanation. If you got a better one, explain below.

One thing that's abundantly clear: if you're getting treated poorly, the best thing you can do is have someone record it and put it on Youtube. That's a serious come-up. In fact, I'm gonna predict that Cyber Victimhood™ is the next Grand Hu$tle™. If this sounds crass to you guys, need I remind you how many people raised money for 9/11 families, tsunamia recovery, and "Katrina Victims" and put that sh*t right in their own pockets. We can be a downright triflin' society when we really put our minds to it.

Or, in this case, we can be a great society. I just wonder why we're being this great.

Question: How else do you explain the Karen Klein phenomenon? What's really fueling the media attention and financial windfall?

[1] But if I was, I'd say that had some other variables been slightly different in this video, the public response would likely have been quite different. I damn sure know Matt Lauer wouldn't be "apologizing" for those kids' actions if they were black.

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