The Bullycide Epidemic: How Many More Have To Die?
Too many teen suicides due to bullying
Seth Walsh, a 13-year old from Bakersfield, CA, tied a rope around his neck in a closet and dies of asphyxiation.
Billy Lucas, a 15-year old from Indiana, likewise hung himself.
Asher Brown, an eighth grader from Texas, shot himself.
And Tyler Clementi, an 18-year old freshman at Rutgers University, jumped off the George Washington Bridge in New York City.
These four tragedies had one thing in common: All of the young men mentioned here were victims of bullying because they were gay and thus considered undesirable outcasts and "pansies" at their schools.
When I read about these atrocities, which all happened within a few weeks of each other this past September, my overwhelming thought, my initial reaction, was "Here we go again!"
The stories about those four teens invoked feelings of sadness that those boys were needlessly gone too soon, and anger that bullies pushed them to off themselves; essentially speaking, the low lifes who harassed them to the point of suicide were murderers.
Similar feelings abounded when I read on Yahoo.com about how one school outside of Cleveland, OH had no less than four suicides over a two-year period. Like those four young boys, those children were mercilessly taunted for reasons ranging from being learning disabled to being a boy who preferred to wear pink.
What really annoyed me about those bullycides - suicides by bullying - was that a student at Mentor High School, where the tragedies occurred - had the nerve to say that his school was being made to look bad by the media, stating, "Not everybody's a good person...in a group of 3,000 people, there are going to be bad people."
It sounded like he was saying that what happened was inevitable and OK; if I were that school's principal, I would have given him two weeks' detention for being so unsympathetic and insensitive.
Like Pheobe Price, who killed herself this past spring after enduring all sorts of excruciating hell from tormentors for months, these latest SBB's - another term for suicides by bullying - hit home because during the late 1970s and well into the 1980s, while in my formative years, I was bullied and harassed like Phoebe, Tyler, Asher, Seth, Billy, and those four Ohio teens.
Although I was (and am) a straight male, people thought I was gay and called me a - pardon the expression - a "faggot" because of the way I acted on occasion, shunning boys to hang out with girls every so often. I had cruel jokes played on me due to the fact that I have Asperger's Syndrome, a high functioning from of autism, which led me to being seen as a strange "geek"; when I was in high school I specifically recall classmates ditching me on Disneyland's Main Street two years running during class trips there, along with ignoring me on a regular basis.
Being a young African American in my town's low income area, I was savagely bullied by other black kids because I got good grades at school, wasn't too good at sports, wasn't a troublemaker, and didn't dress in the "fresh" styles of that time.
Suffice it to say, life wasn't fun for me in those days.
Actually, it's safe to state that the only difference between me and those four boys, as well as those Ohio kids, is that I'm alive to tell this tale as I approach my mid-forties.
When I look back on those years, there are times when I'm a bit surprised that I'm here, because thoughts of suicide did cross my mind a few times, particularly after high school when the trauma was still fresh in my mind.
I saw a recent show on CNN focusing on bullying that mentioned how 160,000 young people avoided gong to school due to them being harassed.
During my sixth grade year in 1979, I was one of those kids.
Though he wasn't the only one who bullied me, one classmate was the most responsible for my hellish existence my last year in grade school and was the number one reason why I either came to class up to two hours late or not at all several times that spring, staying in bed in what I now know was a depressed state.
For reasons of courtesy - which he doesn't deserve - I'll refer this evil low life of a human being by his initials, L.C.
For a span of five school years, from the fourth grade through the end of eighth grade, L.C. made my life miserable, calling me all sorts of bad names, taunting me in all kinds of ways, and punching me fairly regularly, all because I was different from most of the black youngsters in the town we grew up in.
Telling the teachers about this scum didn't produce lasting or satisfying results; in those days the attitude was still "Boys will be boys", that if a bully victimized or terrorized you, it would eventually blow over and the one who was bullied would forgive, forget, and get over it.
What those in charge didn't realize was that the mental and emotional scars that resulted from the torture that bullies like L.C. put on the bullied - like me - take a long time to heal, much longer than whatever bruises that are caused by being punched or pushed into lockers. Sometimes they never fully heal, as evidenced by the countless number of folks who are able to remember terrorizing incidents that happened decades ago the same way they can recall what they had for breakfast that morning.
In my case, it's been 30 years since L.C., that spawn of Satan in human form, put me through that hell of his; to this day I continue to have moments of trauma stemming from it all, much like the post traumatic stress disorder that war veterans often suffer from.
Even though I haven't seen him in over two decades, what L.C. - and others, I should emphasize that he wasn't the only one - did to me in our formative years will always stay with me, no matter how much time passes or how many times I'm told that I should have no grudges and "move on".
In a perfect world, to forgive a bully of his or her crimes would be easy to do, but the trauma caused by such bully makes it difficult to forgive and disregard the trespasses committed in real life, sometimes overwhelmingly so.
In my opinion, that's why the most effective way to curtail taunting in schools, which caused these tragic suicides, is to have a "zero tolerance " approach.
An automatic suspension should be given for the first offense, with expulsion for any following incidents, and if the victim should kill him-or-herself due to the harassment, the bullying slime needs to be permanently expelled, blacklisted, and put in prison for indirect homicide.
Those personifications of evil who tortured those boys in September may not have put the gun to their heads or the rope around their necks, or pushed them off that bridge, but they are the reason those young men are dead, which means they must be held accountable.
No one sympathizes with the victims of bullies more than I do, because I was among those victims once upon a time.
The humiliation that I received during those years did so much psychological harm to me that my self confidence was sorely lacking all through high school and into my first year of college; it left me with some heinously bad memories due to that mental torture, so much so that nearly three decades later, I still get flashbacks of those awful incidents.
Every time I see a teen or a pre-teen on TV talking about how he or she was brutalized by no-hearted schoolmates, all I want to do is give them a great big hug and tell them that they are beautiful human beings who deserve respect, acceptance, and love.
NO ONE, AND I MEAN NO ONE, DESERVES TO BE BULLIED - EVER.
Not me back in those disco and post-disco days, nor Seth, or Billy, or Asher, or Phoebe, or Tyler at Rutgers, or those four teenagers at that suburban Cleveland school, not anybody.
As for me, I have the Good Lord to thank for surviving that bottom level of Hades, because I definitely could have been one of those deceased.
The most unfortunate thing about all of this is that I should not have had anything to "survive" from in the first place; that's what upsets me more than anything else.
Maybe if a hard line zero-tolerance policy was adopted in schools as a way of battling with this issue, if a "War on Bullies", so to speak, were declared, bullying may not be done away with completely, but it would be dealt a significant blow.
And perhaps those young adolescents who died from their own hand would be with us today.
I suppose the only thing left for me to say is, when will these bullycides end?