Jennier Petkov has the dubious honor of being the 85th most googled term this afternoon thanks to her stunningly self-absorbed Housewife of New Jersey via Michigan turn on a local news channel.
In case you’ve missed Jennifer, she’s the trending troll de jour due to her harpy-ish harassment of her neighbor’s dying grand-daughter, and her relentless campaign to mock the death of the little girl’s mother.
Mother and daughter carried the deadly Huntington’s gene. The mother passed away at 24 and the now seven-year old daughter is in the last stages of a disease that eats away brain tissue.
What would drive someone to mock and torment the terminally ill?
It’s the culmination of a two-year feud that began when Jennifer mistakenly believed that her neighbors had deliberately excluded her son from a birthday party. I believe there was a bouncy house involved. The Trojan War and WWI were bouncy house snubs, I believe.
Regardless, the battle was afoot and has trampled all over Jennifer’s neighborhood and with a little help front Photoshop, she took it to Facebook even.
Enter the press. And cue the clever pot-stirrer who uploaded this clip to YouTube:
My favorite part … aside from the head bobbing – their heads always bob – why? … is when the near speechless reporter asks Jennifer why she would do such a thing.
Her answer was basically because she could and it was fun.
“Take it or leave it,” she says as her final justification.
And here is where she is you.
Just like Christine O’Donnell is you.
And Glenn Beck is you.
And that incredibly pouty, spoiled football player’s wife on The View is you.
The feeling that personal entitlement is all and that change, or meeting half way, is for the weak, those who aren’t strong enough (or too cognizant of the interconnectedness of humanity).
I wouldn’t defend Jennifer, but she is hardly an anomaly. The people bashing her today are Jennifer. Those who dedicated hate pages across the Social Mediascape to shame her and “give her a dose of her own medicine” are her too.
Jennifer’s mean girl ways are a timely find. Bullying is all over the news. Much hand-wringing and wondering why.
But there is nothing to wonder about. Bullying is part of who we are. It’s steeped in our culture of “take me or leave me”. The idea that we are free to impose, judge, forcibly coerce and bare our teeth like the Darwinian creatures we are is exactly what makes it possible for teens to mimic their same-sex fearing parents when they pick at their gay classmates until the whites of their bones show.
Sarah Palin‘s eye rolls. Rachel Maddow‘s contempt. Bill O’Reilly’s brow-beating. Jon Stewart‘s mockery. It’s Jennifer with a polish and book smarts, but it’s Jennifer no less. We are a nation of bullies. Our politics, our religions, our social fabric really is based on the idea that if the cause is perceived righteous – anything that has to be said or done to get the masses to line up and bleat is justified.
Just last evening, my oldest nephew pulled a “take it or leave it” on me. He’d spent the day before stirring the family crisis pot with teen angst and over-reaction that culminated in him “running away” for the night to make his point. When I talked with him the next day – after all the adults had made contact, assessed the actual facts and were on the same united page – he admitted that perhaps he’d gotten a bit overwrought,
“But it’s who I am,” he said, “and I can’t change it.”
I disagreed, and I still do. People are who they want to be. Their words and actions are who they are. Hurtfulness, manipulations that add up to bullying behavior aren’t justified by the ends no matter how heinous or righteous the cause. Jennifer was wrong, but the people who are harassing her right now are wrong too. They are bullies too.
Jennifer’s cause was the selfish preservation of face. She over-reacted two years ago but couldn’t admit it. She fell back on learned behavior that is not so different from what many people do on smaller scales in their places of work and within their families or social networks.
But any time words – or worse – are used to twist facts or to wound, it’s bullying. We Americans are mean girls at our core. Hypocrites. Just like Jennifer.
- Love Thy Neighbor? Terminally Ill Child’s Family Bulllied (abcnews.go.com)
- Horrible, Horrible: Dying Child Taunted On Facebook [Awful] (jezebel.com)
- Dying 7-Year-Old’s Family Cyberbullied by Adult Neighbor (aolhealth.com)
- Can The Petkovs Be Charged or Sued in Their Alleged Harassment of a Dying Seven-Year-Old Girl? (jonathanturley.org)
“Never attribute to malice what can be adequately explained by stupidity.” – author unknown
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