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copyright © 2010 Betsy L. Angert. BeThink.org
Since I was a child he hounded me. She stalked me. I was bullied, intimidated, tormented not by a single person, but by a throng of thoughts. Why did another child, adolescent, nay adult ever bully me. What was it about me that kept me safe from harm or a persecutor’s pointed proclamations?
I was a chubby child, a tubby teen. As I aged I gained greater girth. Yet, no one, friend, family, or foe, if I even had one, said a word. I was not cool. Nor was I part of a clique. Never was I the Teacher’s pet. I worked to be invisible. Yet, the “in crowd,” the “geeks,” and the “goons,” all gravitated towards me in a manner that said I was accepted. I know not why. Popularity escaped me, perchance, because I ran from fame and fortune. Facades were and are far from my favorites.
I was genuinely fond of many of my peers; I did engage in intimate interchanges. Mostly, I spent my time with my Mom and Dad. That alone might have made me an object of ridicule. It did not. Consistently, I was told I was different. Yet, this was never stated with disdain. In truth, peers seemed quite appreciative. The words were offered with infinite appreciation; which I never understood.
Being different, in my life was not easily defined. True, I was not the conventional characterization of “unique,” another word often ascribed to me. I was not a Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, nor Trans-Gender,. That alone, I trust saved me from bullying that is sadly, more likely. Still, I never fit in, not as a child. Nor, as an adolescent or an adult. I was never among the thirty percent (30%) that are harassed in offices.
It seems being out of the norm is enough to spur a bully. I am that, or at least that is what other think. I was not a person who sought attention. If anything, I shied away from it. I was not out-there, an extravert; nay an introvert. I was just I, me, myself. Fascinating to me, innumerable individuals told me, tell me, I am outgoing. I feel that I maybe I am effusive in one-on-one exchanges. However, I am extremely reserved. I am extraordinary reflective. I prefer not to be noticed. To be thought unusual has never been my desire.
Thus, I ask, as is the topic, “bullying”. What is the reason for it? Why are some singled out? The theme is discussed and debated ad nausea, as it needs to be. Yet, each time I hear another story I think, why was I left out?
As a younger person I did as the population does today, daily. Virtually everyone voices disgust. Typically, the thought is, bullying occurs in schools. Granted, we see it on the playground, in classrooms, and amongst young persons in cyberspace. On any avenue and on city streets children are victims of other children. Young men and women are beaten down or beaten up by a bully or a gaggle of gangsters. Adults are also abused. At times an oppositional oppressor can be called husband or wife.
There is reason for infinite concern. What are we as a culture to do? Schools stress the importance of Building a Bully-Free Zone. Teachers attend in-services. Moms and Dads lament. Relatives work to reason with the abused or the abuser.
Moms might muse; what will occur to my child when he or she is out of my sight? Dad’s deliberate. Will my little one be taken down, taken out, taunted, or will people talk until Max or Maxine can take it no more? Experts say, if you have grounds for concern, at least there are Clues that your child is bullied. A caregiver can know what to do.
Scared that a sibling, a son or a daughter might decide, suicide is painless, parents and their progeny suffer. Pupils too. Even persons no longer in school, depressed dropouts and profound professionals harassed in an office place go through what they believe they can no longer endure. Lest we forget the cyber bullied. Individuals whose home life is unbearable can choose to take their lives, as well.
When an Earthly existence is cut short. the scars reach far and wide. Society, as a whole is affected. In anticipation of one more life taken, the public proclaims, “We must find a solution.”
Schools sponsor programs. Communities offer classes.. Some companies place harassment in the workplace. As a high priority Television channels and cinematographers promote educational action plans. Documentaries “deal” with the issue. You may wish to witness or watch either of two presentations. Bullied is a Teaching Tolerance documentary film. Cable News Network offers How To Stop Bullying.
While these wondrous productions inform us as a society, just as has occurred for centuries, the problem persists. Might the reason for repeated offenses be right in front of our eyes? I know not. I only surmise.
As I reflect on my own childhood and transition from a teen to today, I see one vital thread. I think this string saved me. It was a gift my parents gave me, and the reason those who I encountered thought my world “weird.” It is the relationship we have, or I have, with self, security, safety, and sanity. (An aside; Even when people used the word to reference my truth, they reassured me; it was a good thing.) I had doubts.
Yes. I was never sure of my self. Self-confident was not a term that described me . My ego strength is near nil. Nonetheless, I was bequeathed the right to be me. I had no need to worry about what Mommy or Daddy thought of what I said, did, felt, imagined, or was. My parents practiced as they preached. “No one has the right to tell you what you should think, say, do feel, or be!”
Revenge was not a reality in my world for I was taught to embrace empathy. Even now, the words whirl in my head. I was taught to think of how my choices might hurt another, and thus, harm me. “Do whatever makes you happy, as long as it does not hurt any one. I always wondered if my Berenice and Herman had realized at an earlier age as I later did. When we cause another sorrow, we will experience the pain in-kind, sooner, if not later.
Yet, as much as I was encouraged to have compassion for others, I was taught to take good care of myself. Never was I expected to be silent. Question authority and all else that exists, is the standard in my family. Silence is not golden When we stifle ourselves, stuff it, or shut down, scars build.
Caring conversation built character and created a strong, sincere connection. Be it in a classroom, a crowd, a city boulevard, or an office cubicle, I was persuaded to be passionate in my prose. My parents certainly were. Each was my example. Perchance, my classmates considered me, theirs. I know not.
I am only certain that many expressed a wish for the authentic closeness, the ease of conversation, the openness that existed between my parents and me.
Hence, I theorize. Might we best teach the children when we teach ourselves to be benevolent, boisterous, and big enough to be ourselves and to allow our offspring to be who they authentically are?
Rather than work to reason with a bully or offer rationalizations to the one being oppressed. Could we instead instill a sense of self in everyone, regardless of age. Perchance then, all persons in our society will be as I am. Befuddled by the lack of bullies in my life.
Bullied is a Teaching Tolerance documentary film that chronicles one student’s ordeal at the hands of anti-gay bullies and offers an inspiring message of hope to those fighting harassment today. It can become a cornerstone of anti-bullying efforts in middle and high schools.
References for a reality realized daily . .
- Film, Cable Specials Put Spotlight on Bullying, By Dakarai Aarons. Education Week. October 6, 2010
- Clues your child is bullied, and what to do, By Stuart Twemlow and Frank Sacco, . Cable News Network. October 6, 2010
- Building a Bully-Free Zone. Teach Tolerance.
- Bullied: A student, a School, and a Case that Made History. Teach Tolerance.
- Action Steps for Educators to Take to Stop Bullying. Teach Tolerance.
- Anti-Bullying Resources. Gay, Lesbian and Straight Education Network. 2010
- Gay and Lesbian Teens Bullied More than Heterosexuals, By Jeanne Bryer. Live Science. February 3, 2010
- Bullying and Suicide; Statistics. Bullying Statistics. 2009
- Study Reveals Widespread Office Bully Problem, By Jeanne Bryer. Live Science. February 3, 2010
- How To Stop Bullying. Reported By Carol Costello. Cable News Network. October 5, 2010