UPDATE: MP3 Now Available Via Podcast! April 17th show is up Bullies.
Hey! It's a new post AND I am going to try to get the podcast up and working! So: woo hoo!
I will, if all goes well, be hosting a podcast here of just my stuff, but of course you should listen to the whole show on WHMP 1400AM, Saturdays at noon, the Liberal Oasis Radio Show. Or at the very least, listen online at www.liberaloasis.com. AND all the other things that Bill does there, because he is a wicked smartypants and knows stuff about things.
And now, back to your regularly scheduled programming, already in progress.
I moved to a new town in fourth grade. Prior to that, I guess maybe we were too young for cliques, or possibly I just happened to have friends and didn't notice. In the new school, We had assigned seats, and the first day I sat down next to a boy who immediately began to punch me in the leg, under the desk so the teacher couldn't see. "Cut it out!" I whispered. His in retrospect amazing response was, "Whatsamatta, can't take it?"
Ermm...it's more that I don't want to be punched in the leg, really. And thus began quite literally one of the worst years of my life. No one in school would talk to me, for the entire school year -which is a long time for anyone, and so much more so for a kid -; my mom had to import my old friends from the next town over for sleepovers and birthdays. At lunch the first week, a girl sat next to me, and her friend asked, "Why are you sitting with her?" "I dunno, the teacher said I had to." Awesome. That is excellent. Thank you for that.
We moved back to my old town the next year, but I don't think I regained my social equilibrium until high school, when there were so many kids I was able to find enough misfits to form a protective critical mass. We huddled under our black hair dye and Cure records and waited for the day that we never had to see any of these people ever again.
So I am aware that bullying is nothing new; still, the news of the suicides of kids like Phoebe Prince and Carl Walker-Hoover hits a nerve. But instead of focusing on the kids who were harassed, I think about the Mean Girls, and their motivations. Specifically, I think about teen movies, and who normal people identify with. Are you the plucky underdog, the quirky indivdual? Or are you the stuck up, feathered-haired jock pushing the nerd into a locker?
Are there people who want to be that guy? People who think that guy gets a bad rap in the movies? Are there really people, kids, out there who read Harry Potter and identified with Draco Malfoy? Especially the one where Harry is tormented all year by Malfoy and Rita Skeeter? Remember that one? It seems that there must be, it seems that a lot of people side with the quote "bad guy" in movies, otherwise why would they act just like them?
There is a lot of talk about what the South Hadley school could have done, what the parents could have done -- and I can't imagine what any of the parents are going through, both victims and perpetrators -- if I knew my kid was that cruel to another person, I would be devastated, no matter the result. I hear a lot of "kids will be kids, kids are cruel, what are you going to do?" and I call bull-puckey. Maybe they are, maybe it's a part of growing up, but another part of growing up is taking personal responsibility, especially for teenagers. those kids were mean; there is Facebook evidence of it. And they need to take responsibility for the results of their behavior.
As adults, we are responsible for giving kids the tools they need to deal with it when people are horrible, and we need to make clear what kind of behavior is acceptable, and what is definitely not. I remember there was a kid in my school, typical nerd, so skinny and really pale, and he was teased quite a bit. I was fully in my scary goth mode, so was left alone for the most part by this point. One of the jocks started in on him in math class one day, and the teacher, one of the hockey coaches, pulled the jock up out of his seat and dragged him into the hall. We could hear him getting chewed out, as could everyone else in that hallway, I would imagine. It was sort of amazing, really. We sat there, silent, and listened.
If you saw a movie about the things you did in high school, would you root for yourself? There is evidence that those kids went on Facebook and continued to talk crap after Phoebe Prince's death. You can't spin that positively, even if you directed the movie yourself. Would you be the title character or the antagonist? Are you Harry or are you Malfoy?
So hey, guy who knocks books out of people's hand. and girl who spreads lies on purpose: you are doing that thing the jerks do in the movies! You know that horrible character that gets their comeuppance in the end and everybody hates? That's you! Do you really want that? Do really want to BE that person? My guess is no, you don't. So, stop. Don't be that guy.