This was originally posted on my personal Facebook blog, I’ve since reposted it here. Sorry for the lack of pictures and bells and whistles.
I’ve seen a backlash growing against the anti-bullying efforts being waged in this country. It strikes me as so bizarre. When you say to these people, “So… you are… FOR bullying?” many of them actually justify bullying, claiming that it’s a necessary part of growing up that everyone goes through, that it “builds charatcer”, and that “we all get bullied” usually followed with a “you just need to fight back and they’ll leave you alone” or if you express anger at being bullied as a child, they say “you should really get over it”.
To be fair, I think people confuse bullying with teasing on both sides. You have the overprotective people who equate mild name-calling with assault and the deniers who think that bullying is just something every kid deals with. I am not sure which position I find more troubling, because both of them do a disservice to people who are victims of chronic harassment, intimidation, and bullying. I can speak from painful personal experience on this subject.
I was bullied from, oh, first grade up until senior year of high school. I did not successfully defeat my tormentors. I tried to fight back sometimes, and that did not go well for me. I was smart, but for every one I outsmarted, another would take their place. Walking to and from school was fun. I bet I still know the alternate routes I had to take to avoid people who would look at me and say, ooh, hey there Mr. Punching Bag. And, you may not know it but I wasn’t always gifted with size and strength. I was a small kid. I was weak. Fighting back physically always resulted in me getting beat up. The only thing that saved me (sometimes) was the brain in my head.
I heard the prescription to “stand up to the bullies, they will leave you alone after that whether you win or lose”. No, they won’t. At least that’s not how it worked for me. I stood up to a bully in 9th grade who decided my face would make a great place for him to swing his 3″ thick geometry textbook at. Right on the side of my face and ear, boxed me pretty good. So I got up in Hulk Mode, took my desk, and threw it at him. I threw a few more desks for good measure. When the dust settled, I was the one who got in trouble. The other kid? Nothing. In fact this story repeated itself throughout my school days. If I was being bullied then *I* must be doing something to bring it on. What was that? Well, I came from a working-class family and wore my older cousin’s hand-me-downs. I was a lot smarter than many of my peers and I am sure some people resented it. I was always a little odd, preferring to be in my own world than sociable with my peers. They didn’t really make me feel welcome and I probably had some social anxieties. Regardless, I don’t think I did anything to bring it on. No kid asks to be bullied anymore than a woman dressed in a short skirt asks to be raped. And yet there I was, day after day, petrified of what the next ring of the bell would bring.
After 9 1/2 years of this. when my family moved, I thought I had a break. New school, a chance to start over. That lasted three days. Then I ran into a kid who I had met once before and thought was friendly, at least he was back when I met him several years prior. But he had morphed into a psychotic, 25th level bully. He was a 16 year old that was built, I shit you not, like Mike Tyson. He was on the football team and he had a LOT of other huge, borderline sociopath friends. He made my life hell for the better part of a year, along with several of his buddies- one of which checked me into my locker and caused me to severely sprain my ankle on the way down. Football players don’t get in trouble, especially when the vice principal is heavily involved in school athletics. Again, *I* was blamed for bringing it on myself. Yes, I asked a kid twice my size to plow me into a wall. I asked to be chased and threatened and intimidated every day, knowing that no matter what I did it would not stop. And looking back, to them I was but fleeting, momentary amusement. They picked on me opportunistically, and went about their day of football and planning for their weekend drinking binges. I thought about them to the point of distraction. How do I avoid them? How can I get to my next class without encountering them? What do I do if they attack me again? My grades suffered. I became more of an outcast, more anti-social. You can only take being attacked and tormented and told it’s your own fault for so long before you start wishing people dead and that is exactly what began to happen.
I did have psychiatric intervention and therapy and it helped, somewhat. I didn’t kill anyone, after all. Looking back I think that is what they were trying to avoid. Maybe they cared a little but there was nothing they could do to make the bullies stop, and I had to keep facing them every single day. I ended up spending the last half of senior year at an “alternative” high school, where they put kids who they can’t deal with in the normal school and just process them out. Coincidentally, that giant no-neck of a bully who ruined my new school debut ended up there for a semester too, and when he wasn’t trying to impress his friends he was actually a lot more mellow. Or so I thought.
I found out it was an act. One day, he invited me to the pizza joint with him and some friends that was across the street from the school. Halfway across the lawn, another kid who I thought WAS a friend turns and punches me square in the face. He then walks off with the bully. I found out later that the bully threatened HIM and told him if he didn’t hit me, then he himself was going to get beat up. The betrayal honestly hurt worse than the punch. Who knows what would have happened to my life if I had been able to close those wounds and let the ghosts of my past bullies rest. Of course, *I* got into trouble for being punched this time too.
I didn’t kill myself or anyone else because I had good parents who did their best to understand, who believed me and fought for me when the schools tried to sweep it under the rug. Therapy helped, regardless of the motive. Being gay had little to do with my bullying as I didn’t come out until after I graduated (though it did have to do with a lot of my social anxiety). When I think back on this, I realize I am still simmering over it. It’s why I routinely reject friend requests on social networks from people who either did nothing to stand up for me or who had a part in bullying me. It’s why I don’t go to school reunions. It’s why I hate going anywhere near my hometown. It’s why I am always seeking to reinvent myself and be anybody but the scared, frightened child I once was. I have scars, physical and not-physical, that are hardened and painful still to this day. And I have rage, so much rage over how fucked over my childhood was because of bullies, and nothing pisses me off more when people say “oh that was 25 years ago, get over it, let it go, everyone got teased”.
That just brings it all back home again. I never had my feelings validated. I never got justice for the shit I endured. These people got away with everything while I had to eat their torture and then pay the price whenever I tried to defend myself or stand up to them. It is by the grace of therapy and me not having access to a gun that these people are not dead and honestly, when I find out that some kid corks off after years of being bullied and guns their bullies down, I am happy. I hate that the kid ends up committing suicide or ends up in prison but I am not exactly sad when bullies get theirs in lethal, bloodsoaked ways. Good. That’s what you get. It’s what they deserve.
So. In lieu of dragging these wastes out into the street and shooting them in the head- I say, yes.
Bullying should be illegal. It is a crime by it’s very definition. Those who commit bullying as well as those who enable bullies by not reporting it to authorities, by sweeping it under the rug because the bully is a star athlete or other person of privilege, and the bullies’ parents should be held responsible. And I am not talking about people who call someone a name or say one mean thing, yes, that happens. I am talking about people who terrorize others to the point where they cannot function, and these are the kids, the victims of this, who are killing themselves.
There are those who say that we can’t stop it, that the law won’t protect everyone, so why try? The truth is we have not honestly tried because so many people have dragged their feet. It’s become so twisted that some Christian groups are protesting anti-bullying policies because they believe it infringes on their right to.. bully gay kids… I am not making this up, apparently, Jesus would bully gay kids. That is sarcasm to the Nth degree. The point is, we need to do something or we’re going to keep reading about Bailey O’Neil and Jamie Rodemeyer or the school shooters who kill a dozen kids or worse- the people who swallow it all and spend the rest of their lives as damaged wrecks of humanity because others got a sick pleasure out of tormenting them while those with the power to stop it did nothing.