I worry about this sudden interest in bullying and those that think a rise in “awareness” is the solution. Tell me truthfully – who is not aware of this issue? Most of us have witnessed it, perpetrated it or suffered it. The value will hopefully come from a continued discussion and an end to silent suffering. Change comes from our individual decisions and taking responsibility for them.
I was mercilessly humiliated and violently bullied as a teenager. When I was 13, I had an adult leave me to the mercy of my tormentors because she did not want to deal with them. She said she had a headache. The verbal taunting escalated to violence when the bullies realized there would be no consequences for their actions.
Abandoned by witnesses and authority figures, I would try to hide from my tormentors behind brick walls and in classrooms until I was kicked out by teachers. I tried, in vain, to disappear. Many times I would be forced to go out into the winter chill after my gloves had been stolen. I am sure there are many who attended school with me and never knew I existed. I cannot imagine how impossible that small grace is in the age of social media.
Some think the solution is to jam some politically correct platitudes down the throats of all children and their chaperones. How does this make a child less of a target? Pity and the empty words of those who would not protect them when they needed it brings a spotlight on what is already a humiliating experience. Look at the angry words on some of Amanda Todd’s FB tributes. Through her tragic and unnecessary death, she has become a lightening rod.
If you see a child being bullied – have the independent courage to have it stopped. Cyber bullying requires criminal prosecution. Report the bully. Don’t make these kids ‘special’ – help them to feel normal and let them decide what makes them special!
To all of you out there that feel singled out by bullies – Hang in there! You are your own hero and you will be OK. Take inspiration from Malala Yousufzai, the Pakistani girl who faces a bully beyond most of our imaginations. Get your education by standing strong. Thankfully, high school ends eventually. Whether you realize it now or not, the world needs you.
To the bullies – It is up to you to take responsibility for your actions. Not teachers, not your parents. Use that strength in a way that builds your self-esteem and that of others! Protect the kids in your school who might be targets instead of fueling the fire. Do the right thing. You’ll respect yourself and that makes you a real leader – something our society is short on these days.
To those who stand by and watch: Ask yourselves – does watching and doing nothing make you as bad as the bully? Our world is full of mediocrity that is the result of not trying hard enough or doing nothing when action is called for. The bully and the victim are the outliers and the survivors are motivated to make the world a better, more beautiful place. What are you doing? Don’t stand by and watch. Inertia is as evil as the crime itself – maybe worse. That is NOT a call to war – it is a call to compassion and personal courage.
I think the “awareness” is useless unless it keeps this discussion going and doesn’t die off until the next teenage suicide. It does not give us permission to remain silent just because there are many teenagers out there suffering in silence.