Friday, November 29, 2013

A Talk about Bullying

By Fred Owens

If you got your ass kicked in 3rd grade, it's because you were a twit.

There are no solutions here, but some honest talk about real experiences.

One of the talkers asked to have his name withheld, so I decided to withhold all the names.

And, without further ado, let the discussion begin.

Avenger. If you got your ass kicked in 3rd grade, it's because you were a twit.

The Nice People are rampaging across Facebook in the new war against bullies. I instinctively take the opposite side. It is time to, judiciously, blame the victim.

Little Sister. Don't even joke about it.

Garden Man. I was always the victim - nerdy, lacking social skills and uncoordinated, I had to sneak to school and sneak home or risk being assaulted. It was not funny. In some moments it still hurts unbearably.

Avenger. I have always felt that way -- to not pick on people, to not let people pick on me. Yet I distrust this current fad, as if some people just last week discovered that some of us are not as nice as we could be....... There is a generic Facebook social media movement against bullying. I oppose it. It is totally phony. I am not nice, and I don't care to associate with people who are.

Garden Man. "Not nice" and bullying are two very different phenomena! Very different!

The Avenger. Lately there has been a lot of media hype on this topic -- and it's crap. Facebook/social media creates false hope and pushes phony agendas. What you can expect from this is that someone -- at a school or business -- will create a program and set up guidelines and require students and employees to attend workshops on the issue. And I say all this is crap. I am not joining. It's a waste of my time.

I suggest instead that we deal with individual situations as they arise....

Garden Man. Well, I WAS a twit, but I don't think THAT justifies beating someone up! It didn't make me less a twit and it didn't improve my grades, my self-esteem or my popularity. It increased my fear, which was the story anyway, and ruined any chance I had at enjoying my years in school from 3rd grade to 8th grade. I wished I could die every day I was in school and the adults who knew about it did nothing. I was left to my own wits about how to make the one mile walk from home to school and back and not get beat up again.

The last day of school in 8th grade I had to leave the town, walking through fields to the south east, and walk a huge arc through fields to arrive at home hours later from the north west to not be beat up by half dozen football players. I have no problem against pulling against the viral crap of Facebook, but you have provoked a nerve. I verily wish that someone had been there for me, viral or not. Being tortured like that is not anything that any child should endure. Come to the garden with me as the middle school students wait for the bus. They are vile and cruel. I hate them.

Hawk Woman. We have created a society of victims. Pointing blame, passing the buck and developed dependency to the degree of LEECHING. Garden Man, I feel for you and know your pain. Because I too, experienced "bullying" and not by any cause of my own. From the age of 12 until nearly 19, I suffered from SEVERE cystic acne all over my face. I kid you not, cysts and boils the size of small eggs, dozens of them all over my face and neck. I am not exaggerating in the slightest and the scars that cover my entire face are plain proof, I look as though I dipped my face in a bowl of flesh eating acid to have the scars that I do.

As you can imagine, I was horribly made fun of, bullied, teased, and the feeling of hopelessness that there was nothing I could do to change my face. There were no products available to cure me. I am so grateful beyond words for one person, my mother, whom loved me more than I can ever know, and showed me what life is all about. What I did in the most important years of my youth is that I learned the value of heart. I learned the value of kindness, and of silent healing. I learned the value of encouragement. I learned compassion, not pity. I moved forward, that is not to say I didn't have moments of staring in the mirror at an unrecognizable, deformed face wondering "Why me?" I learned from this...

Instead of creating hate and anger, bitterness and victimization, I learned great strength, mental discipline, compassion, motivation, determination, spirituality, mental exploration, seeking out knowledge, I was not consumed with beauty any longer, or fashionable clothes, or fancy cars, or being a cliche teenager often consumed by material possessions, appearances and boys. I learned raw confidence, UNCONDITIONAL LOVE, and the VALUE OF A HUMAN SOUL, far beyond what your eyes can see. Much too often people see with their eyes. See with your hearts. ONLY THIS, only this love will prevent bullying. Not pink t-shirts and silly slogans.

Love your children unconditionally, love your family unconditionally, love your neighbors, your enemies, your allies, your foes, earth, creation and all things... When you can do those things, you will see beauty at its finest as you've never imagined it.

Love conquers all, indeed.

Garden Man. This thread has been very difficult for me to respond to. Obviously you had a good parent to intercede on your behalf. I did not and many victims do not either. After a bullying incident in high school, I was institutionalized to prevent suicide. All through my life, I have struggled with suicidal ideation and depression, even to this day (I'm 61). I was released from the institution when I overcame my fear; they did not know I had found drugs and alcohol. I finally had to get sober some 20 years after the fact and have had to face these demons. It is STILL not easy for me, I still fight with the fears burned into my face and body at their hands. I learned nothing from my time in school except to FEAR. If you think it's OK for bullies to persist, I can only vehemently disagree. No child should have to fear for his life or want to take his life because he cannot bear to suffer along alone. Sadly, I would imagine that more bullying victims have experiences more closely tallying mine: no parent, no adult to intercede on their behalf and a shattered life because there were no lessons to learn except self-worthlessness.

Hawk Woman. No, no, no I did not imply bullies should persist. I feel for you, and have compassion for your journey. I believe bullies should be brought to justice when these instances occur, there should be available help that you can feel comfortable talking to, and that will be able to provide tools for legal intervention.

I know that apologizing to the plate after it has been broken does not make it magically reform itself back together. These bullies had something happen to them to make them angry, when we come out of the womb we are not born with hate. The first, and only thing we feel at that moment is love. My point being, it is up to the next generations to help extinguish these fires by the means I explained prior. If a child is shown love, it will only know love. If there are no bullies, there are no victims of bullying.

I suppose I am a rare case to have come out what people see as "unscathed", that is not true. But it did take a lot of work on my part and comprehension of mental discipline at such a young age. I am 22, and aside from my work with birds of prey, my mission in life is to love everyone unconditionally, provide encouragement, and find the peace within all of us. I don’t say these things for my own glory, I say these things because we have forgotten our true purpose here. We have forgotten the balance. We have forgotten unity, strength in numbers, and serenity.

I am, because we are. We are all in this together, the superficial and material society has divided us. It has caused division, hate, anger, depression, mental instability, physical ailments, anxiety, and ultimately death. We were not born hating, we were taught. We can learn to love, too. I feel for you, Garden Man.. There are still some of us who really care.

Avenger. Well said, Hawk Woman ---- I don't mean to suggest I have any special experience to relate here. I've just been reading stories on the Internet lately and it all seems like the latest hype, so my aim was to make it real, and I feel that you and Garden Man have done just that....

Big Sister. While I find meaning in both Garden Man and Hawk Woman's stories, on the whole I think kids today are being trained to be overly sensitive on the one hand to too immune to abuse on the other hand. I cannot find the balance. My understanding for boys is that you are not really a man until you have survived a fight, I am not sure about girls.

As a high school teacher, I can tell you that frequently I had students say so and so is mean to me, or says things about me. First of all there is very little a teacher can do, especially if she doesn't actually witness the abuse. Secondly, with all that a teacher has to do, that is almost beyond the realm of possibility to protect kids from meanness. I really don't know what the answer is, but being overly sensitive sets you up for a lifetime of hurt feelings, while being hardened to meanness makes you, well, hard hearted and insensitive. Life is always in the balance.

Hawk Woman. Great to hear it from someone who is on the inside of it all, a teacher. I see how your position can be limited. It is a lot of he said, she said and is difficult to determine. I would suppose that I put too much expectation on the youth to bring a serious situation to light with someone who does have the authority to implement justice in the situation.

Granted, in my mind I am thinking of those that are being physically abused. As I stated before about my past, mine was indeed only verbal abuse and I agree with you that we have become too sensitive to one teeny tiny little fact, that the world is not fair, nor is it kind. Instead of simply consoling their emotions, I think it is greatly beneficial to equip them with the ability to move forward against all odds. By having it nice and easy at school, you will have a rude awakening when we must grow up and realize that the people in the real world aren't always bright and shiny, nor do they have our best interests in mind. Teach the children to be strong and confident, full of ambition and the motivation to fulfill that ambition. Teach them kindness, not to let these experiences harden their hearts, crush their dreams or make them bitter and reclusive. Life is what you make of it, push forward and enjoy it. Your energy is not worth being spent on the negatives. As for the ones being physically abused, stand up for yourself as best you can, stand tall and do inform someone who can help you. I love to hear honesty from the classroom, the ones who are actually witnessing what is transpiring in our children today, the future of our world. Thank you very much for sharing.

The Lone Ranger has been listening to all this with great interest, now he has to jump in with his own tale of childhood abuse.

Lone Ranger. Oh, so all the times that I got waylaid on the way to the park by roving gangs of chicano kids who slapped the shit out of me and threw my lunch in the street? That was all my doing? Thanks, Avenger. I feel so much better.

Little Sister. There is just no excuse for bullying!

Avenger. Lone Ranger, you were not a twit, you just grew up in the wrong neighborhood...... When did this start? My Dad grew up in a tough neighborhood in St. Louis, that would be 1915-1925, give or take a few years. He was treated roughly and he didn't care to talk about it. But he made it his life's ambition to get out of that place and he did get out.... Just saying this is not a new thing, but saying that I do not trust the current interest in the problem.......... It smacks of a trend. It's phony and it will produce phony results. Committees will be formed. Regulations will be passed. Politicians will get on the bandwagon. The whole thing is going viral, and nothing will happen........ As for bullying, I did not suffer from it. I don't understand why it happens, and I don't know how to prevent it...... That's a good place to start.

Little Sister. Also, remember that the bully will grow up to be someone's parent, someone's spouse, or someone's boss.

Lone Ranger. I agree that the new emphasis on bully-awareness is just one more way for the hover-parents to act as if they discovered children. But I do think I know where it comes from. It's a status behavior. Old as the species itself. And we won't ever eliminate it entirely. But, I do have to say that I think it is LESS prevalent now than when I was a kid. It was really Lord of The Flies back then.

The Avenger. The bully in my class in grade school was Leroy -- that was his real name. He was big, dumb and mean -- he had a grin on his face like Ernest Borgnine in From Here To Eternity. He lived right down the alley from my house, but I think he found easier targets.....

Big Sister. I remember Leroy, dumb and bad. I suppose we should feel sorry for dumb kids, how else are they going to get any attention?

The Avenger. I liked Leroy, but he was too stupid to hang out with.

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