Bullying Is A National Problem That Must Be Stopped
- Social Issues: Fear and Ignorance
It is the responsibility of each citizen to educate and bring an end to fear and ignorance.
I was in the 5th grade when I met my first bully. Before we get to that story, however, allow me to set the stage for you.
At that time I was five feet tall and weighed, on a damn good day, one-hundred pounds. I attended a Catholic school and each day we wore salt-and-pepper pants and a white cotton shirt with a green button-down sweater. To say I was a walking target would be a gross understatement. In the 1950’s to be Catholic was to be different and there was an insidious prejudice running through the very fabric of the United States concerning Catholics. For those of you old enough to remember you will recall that religion was a considerable issue when John F. Kennedy ran for President in 1960, so when I say being Catholic was no picnic you will understand.
Going home after school involved hopping on the city bus, riding it within a half-mile of our home and then walking from there. Unfortunately for me that meant walking through a predominantly Protestant neighborhood; I was not aware of it one sunny September day but I was about to be introduced to prejudice and bullying all in the same afternoon.
One other note of explanation before I finish the tale I started. My father was an Irish bulldog of a man, five-seven with a barrel chest and a quick temper if disrespected. A decorated veteran of World War 2, my dad simply did not know the meaning of the word retreat and believed that a man had to fight for every ounce of respect that this life allowed him to take.
THAT AFTERNOON AND MANY MORE TO FOLLOW
It would be lovely to tell you that I fought and won that afternoon but truth be told I got the stuffing kicked out of me by the neighborhood bully on that walk home. Bruised and bloodied I finally made it home and was administered first aid by my mother who was shocked that her only son would even consider fighting. My dad, on the other hand, simply listened to my account of the activities and then ruffled my hair and told me he was proud of me.
I wasn’t really sure at the time why he was proud of his son and I sure didn’t feel like I had done anything to gain his praise. I do recall wondering what alternative route I could take home the next day and the day after that, but somewhere in my adolescent mind I knew that wasn’t the answer. Consequently the scene was repeated the next day and quite a few more during that school year as I learned a hard lesson about earning respect and never accepting the behavior of a bully.
BULLIES COME IN ALL SIZES AND SHAPES
I am older now and somewhat wiser and that has lent a certain perspective on the subject of bullying. As a teacher I witnessed the same bullying in the schools I taught at so I feel safe in saying that bullying has not changed much over the years. It is still apparent in many kids I see today and it is readily apparent in many adults that I observe. It appears that bullying is not restricted to the youth and that quite possibly childhood bullies become adult bullies. They may not fight you for territory as you make your way home but they are still out there trying to establish some sort of dominance over those they determine to be weaker or more passive. It is the same mentality and fosters the same actions. Those actions may be cleverly disguised in finer clothes and a respected status in society but it is bullying nonetheless.
I have thought of my father’s reactions many times over the years. To respond to bullying with violence goes against everything I believe in today and yet I would react that way if circumstances dictated that type of action. I am not Ghandi nor do I have any desire to be; there are times in life when you simply have to fight and it is the only available path to follow.
Fighting, though, comes in many different forms and to fight physically is to diminish who I am as a human being. I prefer today to find other means with which to fight bullying.
I do not believe children are born with a desire to be a bully. Somewhere during their childhoods they are exposed to that type of behavior. Environment and training give birth to bullies, not some inherent weakness of spirit. Having said that I have empathy for those who would try to dominate another and in fact I have compassion for their wounded spirit. Do not, however, confuse empathy with tolerance for I have zero tolerance of anyone who chooses to exert their will over another. It is against my very nature to simply excuse the inexcusable. Although I may understand its nature I have no place in my life for it and I will not allow it to darken my life or the lives of my loved ones.
DEALING WITH BULLIES TODAY
Bullies are quite literally in every walk of life today. You can see them in the grocery store as they bull their way through the crowds demanding faster service or ridiculing those who do not meet their needs and standards. You can see them on television, shouting down anyone who dares to disagree with them over topics ranging from the economy to defense spending to the right to bear arms and most certainly religion. They roam the halls of the business where you work, making demands and trying to insert their will over yours in meetings. We have all seen them, all worked with them, perhaps even had dinner with them in family settings.
Again, I have no tolerance for this behavior and I find myself calling them out each and every time I witness such behavior. I have found over the years that bullies do not expect opposition as though they believe it to be their divine right to be as they are. They certainly do not expect to be reprimanded for such behavior and are often left indecisive when actually confronted. I was gifted with a searing wit and a very sharp tongue and it pleases me at times to let loose of my verbal arsenal when circumstances call for it.
I have also simply told bullies that their behavior is inexcusable and that I find them to be rude and boorish in their actions. In many ways I am still that small kid walking home on a September afternoon. It is still hardwired in me to stand up to bullies and to make sure that they understand that there are those who will not allow them to control the lives of others. We were not born to be controlled. History if filled with examples of man standing up against oppression and make no mistake about it, bullying is all about oppression. To passively allow bullying is to play the part of a victim and that is unacceptable in my book of life.
I will continue to walk my own path home and I will not be told by another that I cannot walk in a particular fashion along a particular route. My father was absolutely correct when he said that we must give respect and earn respect, and once respect has been earned we must demand it.
May you all follow your own path in life and find happiness along the route you choose.
Bill Holland 2012 aka billybuc
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