First of all, I am now the proud(?) owner of a twitter account! I figured since all of the famous bloggers have one, and I’d like to think if I work hard enough I’ll be one such blogger, I should take a leaf out of their book. You’re welcome to follow @yetunrefined for my thoughts of 140-character-sized proportions. If not that’s cool. Though if I may say so, I already have two followers. I’m pretty cool.
One of the people I’m following is @Bullying_org. They are an anti-bullying group, one of many fighting the growing threat to young children. Since I was in grade school, children have only honed their ability to tear people apart from the inside out. And I remember the bullies being pretty bad in grade school. I remember my mother telling me that the people were just being mean to me because they were jealous, but now that I’m older I understand that it was just cruelty for cruelty’s sake. Those who were never taught cause and effect never understand how their actions can follow a person for the rest of their life.
There is a heart-wrenchingly beautiful video by Shane Koyczan as part of the To This Day Project. He talks about the old rhyme “sticks and stones may break my bones but words will never hurt me.” It’s a mistake to teach children this, because not only is it not true, but it almost gives bullies an excuse. If words can’t hurt someone, it doesn’t matter what you say, right? Wrong.
I remember when the bullies first started coming after me I would fight back. Any rude comment had a snappy comeback. But bullies do not like being fought. I remember once my algebra class wanted to wait outside to let a popular kid in because he complained that he never got into the classroom first. As he had been a primary bully to me the previous year, this didn’t fly with me. I refused to bend. Even when they held me down to keep me from entering the classroom, I fought back.
The problem is, as we get older, the bullies get wiser. It’s no longer someone calling you “fat-ass” or “oompa-loompa” in the hallway. It’s the exclusion from being part of the group, any group. It’s the treatment that makes it very clear to you that you are different, and therefore worse than someone else. Sometimes people can be bullies and not realize it. A kid can say “All Middle Easterns should be tortured or bombed” and think he’s being clever, but he has no idea the fear he just instilled in the girl sitting next to him. What does that mean for me? He’s known me since the fourth grade, but does my ethnic background magically change who I am?
Even friends aren’t always enough to fight off bullies. A boy who made you feel so beautiful one minute can be completely overwritten the next by someone else calling you fat or your clothes ugly.
There are so many pieces of advice out there for kids being bullied. Let it roll off your back. It will pass. Surround yourself with people who make you happy. Tell someone. I feel like this is the wrong approach. Why should it be to the victim to adjust their life, when they aren’t the one who is wrong? It is not enough to teach people how to cope. Every person has the limit to what they can take, but there is no limit to the pain a bully can give. We are teaching victims to accept their pain, as if they deserve it somehow.
I am all for having a person stand up for his or herself, but a person should not have to defend their existence. A person should not have to live in fear of who they are, but should know that no matter what they matter. And we should not accept bullies. When a child starts screaming and throwing a tantrum, you teach them that it is unacceptable behavior. It’s the same principle. You should not accept bullies. I will not accept bullies.
One of my favorite speeches is by Robert F. Kennedy, given after Martin Luther King Junior’s assassination, called the Mindless Menace of Violence. I think that, while he is referring to physical violence, there is no better point to be made, and no more poignant word. “Mindless.” What other word can describe a person who sees nothing wrong with harming his fellow man. “Too often we excuse those who are willing to build their own lives on the shattered dreams of other human beings.” If you get nothing else from his speech, I pray you pay attention to that line.
You see, the issue of bullying and pushing down one’s fellow man has not dwindled it has not been addressed. We cannot wait for the “right time” to take a stand. We cannot wait until we have children and they become so beaten down that they see no way out but strike themselves out from this world. Inaction is just as awful as becoming mindless. It’s not enough to tell the victims that their attackers were wrong, but it must be that we tell those who would mindlessly strike out and cause hurt they are wrong. They are wrong.