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…