The Blog Squad

Wednesday, March 08, 2006

There's something to be said for whispers behind the back

I come from a part of the world and a community of people (Italian-Americans in South Philadelphia) whose dysfunction has its merits. We do not “get things out in the open” or “express our feelings” or “communicate.” We are warm and sincere and direct for the most part but when we disapprove of someone's behavior we do not point it out to the offender: instead, we whisper behind their backs. So if, for instance, a tragedy were to occur as happened with the Godwin students who were killed in the joy-riding accident and if some students started wearing HERO shirts in honor of their lost friends, the people where I am from would mumble their derision but never, ever would it reach the newspaper (or elicit a poll, for crying out loud).

Teenagers are dramatic. They can manufacture drama in ordering a pizza. So when something truly dramatic -- and traumatic -- occurs they will find the grandest, bold-stroke gesture they can dream up (in this case literally -- it came to a Godwin student in a dream, the combination of the first two letters of the deceased students’ names, Heather and Robert) to deal with their pain. Let them. I don’t think these kids are calling their friends who died that night heroes for that action. It was just a clever if not entirely fitting use of their names that created a word that was positive, and in some way honored them. If their names had been Logan and Veronica and someone had come up with a LOVE shirt, no one would be complaining. How must the parents of the deceased teens feel reading this in the paper? If some Godwin students and parents had a problem with students wearing these t-shirts they should have done the decent thing and whispered behind their backs.


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