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Bully Pulpit…

April 10, 2012

Bullying has certainly been a pretty big topic over the last few years, and now more than ever, with the release of the documentary “Bully” that was released last week to theaters nationwide.  (Not to be confused with the independent film “Bully” that was released in 2001, and was quite possibly the worst movie ever made.  Unless you like sex scenes with nude, slutty high school girls who have not yet been introduced to the concept of pubic grooming.  In which case it was probably the best movie ever made.  Hey, it’s up to you. I won’t judge you, even if you are a  fucking chicken-hawk.)

Anyway, the more recent “Bully” is an honest look at bullying in American middle and high schools today.  I haven’t seen it, but from what I have read, it is a heartbreaking story of bullies, their victims, and the lives that are destroyed, including the escalating rate of suicides in these situations.  These stories have been pretty well publicized over the last few years, so even before the movie, I have a question as to why this issue seems to be so much more severe than when I was a child.  I mean, bullying has been around forever, and in many forms.  From the school yard to the board room (As my wife watches “The Celebrity Apprentice” behind me), bullying is certainly nothing new, probably to any of us.  Whether you are/were the bully, the bullied, or a bystander, I am sure that each of us have witnessed this phenomenon  at one point or another.  However, it occurs to me that it is only in recent years that victims of bullying are reacting in far more severe ways.   While some are throwing themselves off bridges, others are walking into their schools armed like Columbian drug cartels taking out everyone in sight.   So this leads to one question that I can’t seem to shake:

Whats changed in the last twenty years?  Is it the bully or the bullied?

It’s not meant to be a rhetorical question.  I have some thoughts, but no real answers.  It’s been almost twenty years since I was loitering around high schools (Except when I need to buy pot), and my kids are not even of kindergarten age yet.  So I don’t really know what kind of bullying goes on today.  What I can say, however, is that I can’t imagine it’s much worse than some of the things I used to see around the schoolyard.  Not much of it aimed at me, luckily.  I mean, I was a fat kid, so I took my share of shit, but I learned at an early age that if you make people laugh a little bit, acceptance follows closely behind, so I rode that horse till puberty granted me height to counterbalance the girth.  I did though, witness some pretty horrible behavior growing up.  Name-calling, beatings, chanting, ridicule.  You name it, it happened.  So it’s hard for me to imagine it could be much worse today.  Is name calling on a Facebook wall really all that much worse than a bathroom wall?  Is Tweeting “Britney’s a slut” really much more painful than the old classroom “Britney’s a slut, pass it on” that we all remember?  I’m not so sure.  So having said that, I can’t help but wonder if it isn’t the bully that is being more vicious, but the bullied that are much less stable and incapable of dealing with the torment.

I’m not blaming the victim here.  In fact, I’m blaming his/her parents mostly.  Maybe if we were teaching our children some independence and self-reliance they would be emotionally equipped to handle the obstacles that life places in front of them.   Maybe if we grounded the helicopter once in a while and let them scrape a knee, or lose a baseball game, or get their feelings hurt, it will better prepare them for a world that can (and will) hurt them and disappoint them.

Maybe it’s time to stop preparing our children for the ideal world we want to live in, and go back to preparing them for the world they actually live in.  Sure, we all want to live in a world without bullying, and racism, and sexism, and terrorism, and corruption.  That is not, however, the world we live in .  We live in a world where bullies pick on ugly kids.  We live in a world of September 11th.  We live in the world with Mel Gibson.

Maybe it’s OK to allow, and even encourage, our children to deal with their peers themselves.  Even if (Gasp!) that means standing up to a bully and punching him in the face, or kicking him in the balls.   Maybe letting our children know that they shouldn’t bottle their feelings up, and that bullies need to be dealt with head on will keep them from taking lives, whether it be their own or others.

And for Gods sake, parents should not, unless under extreme circumstances, be dealing with this on behalf of their children, whether dealing with the school or the other parents.  Try and remember back to when you were in school.  If mommy came into your school to recruit the administration in standing up to a bully, would that have made the situation better?  Or much, MUCH worse?  I mean, you might as well take a turn paddling your kids ass against the gym lockers with the other kids, because you just brought the situation to a whole new horrifying level for your kid.

Now, I am not teaching my kids to punch people every time someone gives them a hard time.  I will teach them, though, that sometimes in life, people need to be sent a message that you are not their doormat.  I will teach them that they will never accept being a punching bag for some insecure scared little fuck-face, and that there are situations in life that call for a solid shot in the mouth.  Because the damage that you do with your fists heal.  The damage you do with an automatic weapon doesn’t…

19 Comments
  1. Lauren permalink

    I couldn’t have said it better myself. People are making it seem like bullying is so much worse now than it used to be, when in actuality, the number of occurences have really decreased. I partly blame the parents of the “victims” as well because they haven’t taught their children to be independent as well as the parents of the bulliers because their kids are just straight jackholes.

    • Yeah, I didnt go into it too much here, but the parents of the bully need to wake the hell up and realize what a little asshole they’re raising.

  2. My work involves dealing with the bullies and the victims 20+ years later. In both cases, they still behave like children, all of them are assholes, and their parents are enabling them to behave as such to this day.

    Also, if you and I ever mounted a tag team political career, the world would come to an end and our apocalypse would be the most fantastic event in history.

    • Let’s do it. Although a blog site filled with fart jokes and racially insensitive material, in an attempt at humor, would probably hurt my political career…

  3. Siobhan permalink

    I do agree with what you said, but think it is actually a little worse. I think the difference today is the technology. Sure you could read “britney’s a slut” on the bathroom wall at school, but today – it’s so much more. You go home thinking finally I can get away from it, and instead you look online and see Britney’s a slut all over everyone’s FB page, along with doctored photo’s showing “you” looking like a slut. Or God forbid you had a lack in judgement, like all kids do at some point, well then you get you-tubed and it’s more than just your school that see’s your poor judgement… it’s the entire world. Where do you escape when, for example, the entire world has seen your private homosexual encounter when you’ve barely admitted to yourself that your gay ( a la the Rutger’s student)? And instead of blaming the parents of the victims (who maybe have coddled the kids a bit) how about blaming the parents of the bullies (or the bullies themselves) for not raising their kids to respect other people, for having such insecurities that they have to bring other kids down to make themselves seem big.
    That said, I fully plan on making sure my 2 daughters are confident, compassionate girls, but also plan on putting them into a martial arts class, cause if some little fucker tries to mess with them or make themselves feel bad about themselves, I want my kids to be able to not only stand up for themselves with words, but protect themselves physically.

    • All fair points. It’s why I acknowledged that I’m out of the loop right now in regards to what exactly bullying is today. And I’m not blaming the victims parents solely. Obviously there is a lot of responsibility on the part of the bully and the way he/she was raised. No question. My point is that we could be doing a better job preparing our kids to deal with assholes, because there is never a shortage of assholes. I’m not excusing the offending behavior. I also think there is a difference between schoolyard bullying and situations like Rutgers. What happened at Rutgers is a depraved indifference to human life. But it minimizes the actions of the roommate to label that as “bullying.” it was so much worse than bullying…

  4. My work entails dealing with both the bullies and the victims 20+ years after they should have built a bridge and gotten over it. Alas, both groups are still assholes in their own right and their parents continue to enable that behavior to the detriment of society and the sanity of people who are forced to deal with them on a daily basis.

    Also, if you and I were ever to mount a tag team political career, the world would end in a most epic explosion of heads. It would be magnificent.

  5. Kim Bogosian permalink

    I have been waiting to hear someone else propose this exact theory for ages. So glad I’m not alone but still dread the fact that helicopter parents will out number the likes of us when they reach school age. Parents of bullies need to step up and end that behavior and parents of victims should help kids understand that you will get to leave school someday, but there are assholes everywhere. But sadly parenting is a lost art.
    Oh yea, and overcoming adversity and learning how to deal with shit can be a good thing in the long run. Thanks for your blog. Keep up the good work!

  6. Jennifer permalink

    Last year in 6th grade some kid pointed my son out to another kid named Brian saying that my son was talking about the kid. Problem is, it was a case of mistaken identity. Jake never said a word about this kid, Jake, as a matter of fact, flies under the radar at his 1300 student middle school 99% of the time because he doesn’t like middle school drama. After lunch, Brian walked up to my son in the hallway, shoved him into the wall, and tried to punch him. My son, who is fairly popular with girls, shoved him back before the punch made contact and beat it out of there like a bat out of hell. Two of his girl friends (not “girlfriends”…he’s not a lothario) were with him when it happened and were ready to beat the sh*t out of Brian! LOL

    I told Jake at the beginning of the school year that NO MATTER WHAT, if some kid gets in his face to fight with him HE IS TO DEFEND HIMSELF.

    I happened to be volunteering at the school the day the kid attacked Jake and ran into him standing outside of the guidance office in the 6th grade hall. I make copies for teachers and the copy room is right across the hall from the guidance office. It had just happened because I found him panting (darned near hyperventilating) from running away and with tears in his eyes. One of the vice principals came out and talked him down. (She was amazing, by the way. You could tell she was well trained to talk to adolescents)

    I was so proud of Jake, because he defended himself and made sure he got away safely. He didn’t get into any trouble for shoving the kid, which I am so glad about, because nowadays kids who defend themselves can get into trouble for fighting, which is downright ridiculous. I told him that he did the right thing.

    I do believe that overall bullying is no worse than it has been throughout generations. I think we just hear about it more thanks to the internet and 24/7 news. PLUS, the definition of bullying has been extended to mundane adversity that kids have always dealt with like “leaving a kid out of the group on purpose” and “teasing.” Last year Jake and a buddy of his were laughing something a girl in their class kept doing and the girl got upset. Their very young teacher pulled me aside one day while I was volunteering at the school and told me about it. She said, “Jacob usually isn’t one to bully.” I was like, “WTF?” I was pissed that my son was insensitive and promised to talk to him about it, but I do not consider what he did bullying! I mean, I was teased relentlessly in middle school for having freckles (I have a lot!) and for having the last name I did (it was pretty bad and easy to make fun of). I hated being teased for both with a passion, but I do not consider that bullying!

    I think schools really don’t know what to do with kids anymore when it comes to discipline either. The kid who shoved my son was in the office with his mom the same week and she must have begged that he not be suspended because he was not only in school but he got to go on the annual field trip to Busch Gardens! I was LIVID! The school won’t talk to you about it because they say it’s a privacy issue, even though it was MY SON who was attacked! I have seen this kid this school year outside the 7th grade guidance office A LOT. He is in trouble ALL THE TIME. He has left Jake alone and Jake actually told me this kid has been cordial to him.

    It’s VERY HARD to get a kid kicked out of school for bad behavior, especially if he has “special needs” and has an IEP (Individualized Education Plan) or 504 Plan. “Special needs” can range from ADHD all the way to some sort of physical handicap. Kids with those are protected by law even if they exhibit violent behavior. Isn’t that lovely? Or sometimes they get to stay in school because of how shitty their “home life” is. Well, I’m sorry you have a bad home life, but too bad!! How the hell are kids ever going to learn consequences of their behavior if they get away with shit like this all the time? Not only that, kids like my son who just want to get through the day and have good grades get to live in fear while they’re in school. Nice learning environment, huh?

    You are so right that too many kids have fragile egos now and just can’t handle adversity anymore. I definitely agree it’s part of the problem, moreso than bullying! Their mommies and daddies haven’t prepared them to deal with much of anything. Having your parents micromanage every minute of your life does not prepare you do deal with Johnny Jackass tripping you in the hall on purpose or calling you “four eyes.”

  7. Tiffany permalink

    This is wonderful. More people should follow your advice. I could not have said this better myself!

  8. I totally agree with you. As someone who was bullied and also bullied others while in junior high I can never imagine that anything that what was done to me or that I did to others would prompt a suicide or gun violence. All parents need to make sure their kids have coping skills. Without coping skills you lose the ability to put things in perceptive. Regardless of whether or not those coping skills are kicking someone in the junk or painting, or making music, it all needs to be constructive. This is what happens when kids are not allowed to fail at anything. You think high school is bad? Just try real life.

  9. I got bullied in school, but came out okay on the other side. I ran when I could, got in a punch when I could, but didn’t let it get me down. I do believe it is worse today, but also agree with everything you said about the bullied. People need to quit wrapping their kids in bubble wrap and let them go out and live their lives. Toughen up.

  10. Hey Mon! permalink

    I graduated high school over 20 years ago. A boy a year younger than me killed himself his senior year. He was the victim of relentless, cruel bullying. I think it did happen back then, it’s just that now when it happens, it is the subject of the 24-hour coverage of national news and the internet. Perhaps it happens more often now, though. I remember reading about suicide clusters way back then or maybe during college. Back then, though, it would happen in a school. Now maybe a child in Wisconsin sees that a kid in Massachusetts killed herself after being bullied and thinks that it’s a real option. I don’t know.

    And I can see how maybe the internet/email makes a child feel like they can never get away with it, but is that really different from prank phone calls all hours of the night, kids in every class taunting you, teachers joining in or turning a blind eye that happened when I was a kid? I don’t know.

    OTOH, I think the student school shooting phenomenon is relatively more recent and I can’t explain that.

    • Hey Mon! permalink

      I meant “makes a child feel like they can never get away FROM it.”

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