Last week, in faraway Australia, 2 disc jockeys decided to have some fun. They didn’t mean anyone any harm, I mean not really. They just were going to play a joke on the English royal family. I am sure when they thought of it they didn’t see a down side. I mean after all the royal family is certainly used to being made sport of.
So armed only with very bad British accents and very poor impressions they called the hospital where the Duchess of Cambridge was known to be staying and proceeded to fool the staff into believing that it was the Queen. So here was an innocent nurse, who was just working the overnight shift in a hospital probably very concerned about the important person in her charge. A nurse, who is someone who had chosen to go to college not to make millions of dollars, but use her education help sick people instead. An admirable person.
The DJ’s were successful in their prank. The nurse was fooled. So successful that this prank didn’t just get on the air in Australia, it went global. It was on the Today show, everywhere in the US. All these articles demonstrated where the nurse, whose voice was broadcasted worldwide, was basically described as being pretty dim for falling for the prank. How would you like to be called a fool on TV in every country of the world?
I have known many famous people in my travels both in the movies and sports and most will tell you that fame is difficult to deal with and takes time to get used to. She became infamous overnight. She couldn’t handle it. She killed herself. It is just sad. And it was avoidable.
I can tell you that just being infamous in Barrington can be hard enough. As many people know, I have opposed Barrington high school prank day much to the anger of high school students. I continue to do so. Many pranks that the students commit certainly are worse than the prank the Australian DJ’s had intended. Just no one has killed themselves. Yet!
Unintended consequences, nobody ever know where they will end up. What seemed like such an innocent prank as most do can change in a week.
This morning on the Today show the 2 Australian DJ’s were on crying at how horrible they feel that the nurse committed suicide. Also crying perhaps because they lost their high paying jobs, are facing up to 5 years in prison under Australian law, and are receiving numerous death threats. Their bosses at the radio station are also facing jail time.
For the long term, there have been 3 people who have responded to my comments in a very distressing way, most recently in the Barrington Times. They stated that they had pranks played on them when they were underclassmen, but that is OK because when they are seniors they will get their chance to perform pranks on underclassmen. And so the cycle continues. This is the lesson the schools have taught our children about pranks.
The closest thing I heard to those kind of statements in my life came from a parent of one of my foster kids, when he was explaining why he beat his children. He told me that his father beat him, so he beat his kids and it was OK because some day his kids will beat their kids. (True story). He didn’t see what the big deal was.
I have spoken to many administrators and school committee members about this over the past 2 years. I have not found one who was in favor of Senior Prank day (They ended it several years ago at Mt. Hope High School and many others I have been told). None of the officials were in favor of the senior prank day; Not one of them! They just didn’t think they could stop it. Not without angering the students, or busting several students and ruining their college chances and then dealing with their self-important, rich parents and their lawyers. The officials are afraid for their jobs and their office. They are cowards. They know what is going on is wrong and they do not try to stop it. And they won’t unless someone like in England dies or kills themselves from unintended consequences.
Is this the lessons we are teaching are kids at school? Are we preparing them to be Australian DJ’s?
So as they put to rest the young woman in England who was just doing her job at 5:30 in the morning when through no fault of her own she became the butt of some misguided people’s sense of humor and found herself a worldwide joke, I want people to think. I want the administrators at the schools to look at both sides. I want people to think before they act. So I leave you with the lyrics of a song I was taught when I was a child and taught my campers when I was a counselor in summer camp in Malibu, California.
By Peter Paul and Mary Called Don’t laugh at me
Don’t laugh at me
Don’t call me names
Don’t take pleasure from my pain
In God’s eyes we are all the same
Someday we will all have perfect wings
Don’t laugh at me
Try to remember that the next time you are laughing at someone else’s expense and maybe think twice. Here is hoping.