by Ansley D. Stevens
I remember when reporting a wrong-doing was the proper thing to do. When telling my parents, a teacher, a police officer, or any other adult that I had seen, or heard, something that was wrong. When it was honorable to do the right thing, instead of ignoring it for fear of being unpopular with my friends. When honesty and integrity came before popularity and social acceptance. When it was more important what my parents thought of me than what my friends thought of me. If you can remember these values then chances are you also remember Howdy Doody, Roy Rogers, Gene Autrey, Fleer’s Double Bubble gum and steel roller skates. Somewhere between then and now things have changed. Today, kids are reluctant to tell on one another even though the consequences could result in personal injury or death. Fear of being labeled a “tattle-tale” or “rat” and suffering social unacceptance causes kids to remain silent.
In the wake of every school shooting in the past two years, investigative evidence has shown that someone knew about the person, or persons, that committed the violent acts well before they happened. But, for various reasons, they chose to remain silent. They didn’t think it was right to “rat” on someone, especially if they knew that person. That silence hurt many people. Not just those directly involved in the incidents, but the neighbors, friends, parents, relatives, and members of the entire community. By not reporting a threat, or a suspected act of violence, they let an entire community suffer. How can that make them feel good about themselves? How can not “ratting” on a potential killer make them a better person in the eyes of their friends?
As a parent, and a charter member of Martial Artists Against Violence [MAAV], I am concerned that there is a great need to make students, parents and all adults aware of violence – and the consequences of keeping quiet. So, what can you do if you know, or suspect, that someone may be planning an act of violence, and you are afraid to report them? Tell a friend, a parent, a teacher you like and trust. Seek help from anyone you know and trust. Contact MAAV, or any organization in your community whose interests are in helping people that may be facing difficult decisions and challenges. Keeping silent is not the answer.
Bomb threats in school, handguns and knives in classrooms, and other acts of violence need to be reported to the proper authorities. It’s not “ratting” on someone when you save lives, or when you prevent a violent act. It’s not wrong to be right, no matter how unpopular it may seem to your friends. It’s not just the acts of violence that hurt… Silence hurts!
This article was originally printed in the May 2001 House of the Samurai newsletter. Mr. Stevens was the program director at the HOS, the Vice President of Martial Artists Against Violence, and holds black belt ranking in both Goju Ryu and Shorin Ryu styles of Karate-do.