Bullying: We Rail Against It, But Actually Do Little To Discourage It

Posted by By at 13 April, at 07 : 55 AM Print

It is said bullying leave scars that last a lifetime. I think the definition of scar includes “last a lifetime.” I have scars from falls, scars from surgery in 1981, scars from an airplane crash in 1968, and a scar on my spine from a collision with a fist in 1961.

I know something about scars, and about bullying.

I graduated Eighth Grade in ceremonies held at the local Grange hall, next to the town fire station, at the other end of Church Street, where the town’s only church stood.

It was in the two-room school house, and on the way home from it, I learned about bullying, and how small-town rural folks don’t have a lot of warmth for city slickers.

I entered Fourth Grade the year our family moved to the country from New York City, where Dad was a cop. Mom was originally from a town near Boston, Mass. Our new home was three miles from the town post office, which likely didn’t help matters much for us folks from the city.

(Later, I learned city kids don’t have much love for country kids, either. There is a story told about when the school district was formed near where I now live, parents of kids who lived in the town for which it was named were afraid the rural youngsters would slow down the learning process, and parents of kids in the outlying rurality feared their kids would learn city stuff.

We’re not talking New York City metropolis. The district was, or became, one of six in a mostly rural county that many years later has only finally tallied 100,000 residents.)

Big T (I’ll call him, because real names are not important) was the leader of the small group of kids who thought city kids who didn’t fight back were great fun to pound on. He is the one who poked his fist from behind a door at Eight Grade graduation and gave me a problem that a half century later still nearly cripples me for days if I pick up even a light load the wrong way.

His main follower was Little T, whose slogan was “I may be small but I’m wiry.” It was Little T I had to get past every afternoon on the walk home. His job was made easier by the town adults, who knew what was happening, often watched it happen, and let it keep happening.

And Mom had a rule that fighting was wrong. She didn’t want to know why; just don’t do it.

The town adults, I eventually learned, were the main problem. They just shook their heads and said “kids will be kids,” and “children can be very mean to each other sometimes.” A 14-year-old girl of my acquaintance went quite awhile in need of braces. When her parents finally decided to make the first appointment, a teacher told the dad, “It will be so good for her self-esteem. The other kids pick on her all the time about her teeth.”

The teacher merely observed the assaults, verbal and physical, until the parents found the money to make them stop.

Young people, it’s my experience, learn less from what their parents tell them than from what they show.

The dad who uses his position to bully weaker townspeople, racists who think it’s OK to beat up people who are “Not Us.”

A huge agri-company (Monsanto) that threatens to sue a state (Vermont) if the state passes a law requiring the company to identify which of its products have been genetically modified.

Bullying does not require fists, or guns. Words and lawyers can be used to great effectiveness to teach youngsters how it’s done.

There is a documentary that apparently is showing now – “apparently” because it is not showing anywhere near where I live – titled “Bully.” It follows the stories of six young people on the receiving end of high school torture.

The official trailer leaves unclear whether it is intended for adult audiences. Initially, it had an R-rating – because of the prolific use among the young characters of the F-word. I thought that interesting because that word is probably the most exercised in our language. Kids hear it and use it all the time …

But not in this movie, from which it has been excised to qualify the flick for a PG-13 rating – thus relieving parents of the need to accompany their kids to see it.

On the other hand, two other movies rated for teens are playing everywhere:

= “Hunger Games” is a story about kids killing kids in a futuristic world with a political subplot probably beyond the notice of most of the young audience; and

= “Project X” is a tale of teenagers who decided the way to get their name in the papers was to throw a mega-party in which the entire home of the unsuspecting hosts is destroyed.

I haven’t seen “Project X” but I have seen “Hunger Games.” The latter was a good story, well told – for those who noticed the aforementioned subplot, which was not really about kids killing kids at all. Most of the blood was off screen, and I don’t recall ever hearing the F-word.

Which means stories about kids killing kids are OK, as long as they do not involve F-in’ kids killing F-in’ kids.

And we wonder why bullying doesn’t stop at the sign marking the boundary of the “Bully Free Zone.”

Photo by trix0r

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This post was written by:
- who has written 169 posts for Rock The Capital
John Messeder is an award winning journalist with more than 35 years experience writing about education, environment and local government issues. He has lived in Maine, Florida, California and Alaska, and, by temporary turns, numerous places in between. John also is an accomplished photographer, and avid hiker, conservationist, oral history buff, and author of several books he has not yet got 'round to writing. He lives in Adams County, Pa., just over a hill from Gettysburg, with his wife and Golden Retriever. He may be contacted at john@JohnMesseder.com - Email jmesseder

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