Monday, October 22, 2012

Amanda Todd: The Girl They Hated.


            Clearly a ghost. A face from the grave. A pretty little face, dominated by two large dark eyes, and a delicate smile, timid and tentative, as if she’s asking us permission to smile.

     “ Hello,” she seems to say. “ My name’s Amanda. Will YOU show me any kindness?”

     “ No. . .

          “ No. . .

              “ No. . .

                   “ NO!”

     Time and again, permission denied. No kindness, no pity, no mercy. How many times must she have been shot down to have chosen death?

     I must be imagining it, but every time I look away, in the corner of my eye, I could swear that smile is flickering. Falling. She puts on a brave face when I look at her, but when she thinks I’m not looking, not even her photograph can smile.

     How much indignity, hatred and humiliation must a girl endure for her to feel that slicing her own flesh is an improvement? (And how ironic that this most agonized of distress signals often invites even more contempt from the ranks of the self satisfied?). Were there no bright spots in her life? No little moments of joy she could cling to? Furthermore, was there not a single human being who would stand up for her, defend her, look her in the eye and say “Amanda, you matter!”

     I wonder what she wanted out of life. What her hopes were, what she dreamed of. She was fifteen. She probably wanted to be liked. Not necessarily popular, but to go to school and have one person be pleased to see her. She probably wanted to go on line and chatter with friends about all the things teen aged girls like to chatter about. She probably wanted a facebook page like everyone else, with friends who would tag her in pictures, like her links and write things on her wall. Adults will scratch their heads and wonder why she threw herself at the mercy of the Social Media, which emboldens the most cruel and cowardly among us, but what they have to remember is this:

     She was fifteen, and that sort of thing matters to a fifteen year old!

     Peer acceptance is important at that age. Just about the most important thing there is. Society doesn’t give kids much choice, herding them together as we do in cattle cars called classrooms. Have we adults ever thought of what hells these places must be for those black sheep who aren’t accepted by the herd?

     Amanda Todd just wanted to do what all the other kids were doing, to join the party so to speak. And all she found was taunting and teasing and sexual exploitation, and people telling her she was better off dead.

     In desperation she put her message into a Youtube bottle and cast it out into the cyber-sea. Didn’t she know that Youtube is festering Troll’s nest, that preys on the vulnerable and sincere? Oh yes. She knew. As if predicting the tidal wave of bile in store for her, she made a futile plea for mercy on her Youtube video:

          Haters are haters, but please don't hate, although I’m sure I’ll get them. 

     Hope springs eternal. Please don’t hate. Please don’t hate. Please don’t hate. . .

     But the hate poured in anyway. Two thousand one hundred and thirteen (and counting) bildge-rats thought nothing of eviscerating a girl’s self esteem from the comfort of their keyboards.

     Are her tormentors happy now? Are they pleased with themselves? Are they satisfied? Might they leave her alone now? I wouldn’t count on it. Trolls prey on the dead as well. Already they're polluting her memorial page with bile, braying  hyena-like in a self satisfied effort to apparently maximize her family's grief.

    How could anyone taunt a mother in mourning? The same way they could torment a girl who was suffering. We shouldn't be surprised: the newspapers are too full of examples of evil to believe that a bereaved family would be off-limits to the casual sadist.

   Amanda's haters seem a puritanical lot: her biggest crime in their eyes seems to have been getting targeted by an online predator when she was thirteen. And apparently stealing someone else's boyfriend (the boyfriend gets off scott-free, of course). "Whore! Bitch! Slut!" they cry. Puritanical, sexually repressed hatred of the female straight from the Taliban playbook. Who would have thought we would see a thirteen year old victim of sexual blackmail get blamed for her own situation in Canada?

     Her other big crime was taking her own life.  There are those who feel no sympathy at all for suicide victims: for the puritan, suicide is a sin, and compassion goes out the window. “ It’s the coward’s way out,” goes the old refrain, as if death were something we all  looked forward to and had to wait our turn for. Might I ask just how brave Amanda was supposed to have been? She was fifteen. She was a child. How much is a child supposed to endure?

     How much hurt lay behind those dark eyes?

     “ Everyone has a story," she wrote "and everyones future will be bright one day, you just gotta pull through. I'm still here aren't I?"

     If only you were Amanda. Even in the darkest darkness there was a little light in you that got through, and for every heartless hater, there were a hundred human beings who see it now and are cursing themselves for not seeing it sooner. If only you could have held out just a little longer. You wanted to live so badly, you so wanted the pain to stop, you hoped so much that someone out there somewhere might be able to take it away. Your Youtube channel was covered in pictures of bandages embroidered with the word “hope”. Were those your mutilated arms on display? It doesn’t matter: you chose the image for a reason. Wounds literally bandaged in hope. You hoped that if you only told your story, maybe they would stop hating.

     Please don’t hate. . .Please don’t hate. . .

     You desperately wanted to feel this hope, you so badly wanted to live. But you couldn’t do it alone, you couldn’t hold out forever, and we didn’t get to you in time. Even hope can be toxic if it's left unfulfilled for too long.

     I’m so, so sorry Amanda. For what it’s worth, we don’t hate you.  We think you're wonderful. We want you back.

Please don't hate. . .


  1. They're still at it. Still sniping, belittling, still hating. I give up.

  2. This would never have happened even ten years ago.
    I don't want to sound sanctimonious here, but PARENTS HAVE TO UNDERSTAND that the internet is the passe partou into an unprotected person's personal, inner life. The problem is, the internet is such a recent development that it is Amanda Todd's generation that is learning the hard way, with very little guidance from experienced adults to see her around this Nagasaki of a landmine. Hopefully, those of her generation that become parents will be the voice of experience for their children. But for her, it's too late.

  3. I couldn't agree more Duane. I am so grateful the internet wasn't around when I was a kid. . .

  4. Thanks for this Steve. Whilst I had heard her name I had somehow managed to miss reading about what happened, and have just been reading up on it now. At my age it probably shouldn't be a shock at how some so-called humans get enjoyment from pushing a young girl into killing herself, but then again the day I sincerely hope I never do stop being shocked by it because that suggests such behaviour is the norm.

    The internet is in most part a wonderful thing. Ugly people (I mean in spirit rather than physically ugly) people have always existed, but the internet has given them a platform for spreading their poison and linking with other human garbage to spread their hatred far further than could have been the case before. As someone that experienced bullying at school (nowhere near the level she did of course) I like you am so very grateful that the internet was around.

    Thank you for your very thoughtful posts on this. Hope you are well dude. We miss having you around in Wycombe!

  5. Cheers fer that Jason. People die every day. People commit suicide every day, and kids are bullied every day. Yet, this story struck me in a way the others didn't. I think it's because Amanda made herself impossible to ignore. She went online begging for mercy, and yet huge swaths of the population still denied it to her. The story forced people to choose sides.

    Missing you guys as well! Say hello to the whole gang for me!

  6. To avoid any confusion I was glad that the internet was NOT around when I was a kid. Damn my bad tieping skilz.

    Indeed this tragedy is just one of the many that happen each day, and it does always seem unfair that one or two get so much publicity, whilst others are pretty much ignored outside of family and friends. Then again it is important for some to get such publicity to highlight the fact that this stuff happens. I watched the video she made, and it's heartbreaking stuff when you know how the story ended. Couldn't bring myself to look at any of the comments, because I know some of it is going to be downright disgusting stuff.