Monday, April 20, 2009
...Because No One Would Be Able To Take It!
For as long as there have been schools, there has been bullying. In the old days it would usually be one or two individuals terrorizing the rest of the smaller, weaker population (for fun, lunch money, and the like). As time went on, there would be individuals that were (some might say arbitrarily) designated the punching bag of an entire class (or in worse case scenarios, an entire school).
People rarely take the time to consider what a toll that kind of constant torment will do to the mental and emotional states of these kids. Man was not built for constant emotional trauma and when subjected to it, man will often times take extreme measures in an attempt to cope. Imagine have to go to your own personal hell everyday and feel like there is no way out, except for…
I am speaking on this from experience, but not the way that you might be thinking. I wasn’t bullied much when I was in elementary school and when I entered junior high (and eventually, senior high) I made friends (acquaintances/associates) easily. While I wasn’t among the most popular kids in my class, I certainly was not a social outcast. I was not the class punching bag, but I knew the ones who were and I must confess that I am guilty throwing a few jabs myself (actually, more than a few if memory serves me). See, I am speaking from the standpoint of a former bully.
Like most people (lets be honest here folks) I have participated in the mob harassment of the designated social outcast. There were a few occasions where I would be the ring leader of said torment. Hell, even a few of the teachers joined in on the act (the bully mentality doesn’t stop upon graduating high school). I remember when I was in 7th grade, things got so bad that the guidance counselor had to go class to class to discuss bullying and its effects with all the students. A zero-tolerance policy was implemented in regards to bullying.
What was the impetus for such a policy? It turns out that one my classes favorite victims, was on the verge of a mental break. Things had gotten to the point where this person simply couldn’t take it anymore. She would go to school but not attend any classes. Instead she would hide all or most of the day in the bathroom in order to escape her tormentors (us) and lamenting her situation. She began to see no reason for living, that’s when school officials stepped in and implemented the new (long overdue) policy.
The damage was already done, though. The girl that we arbitrarily decided would be the symbol of everything that we deemed to be undesirable. She still didn’t have many friends and though the bullying was not tolerated during school, the school officials could do little about the bullying outside of school. No, she did not commit suicide, but there was not a happy ending for her either (as far as I know). She instead opted to drop out of school a few years later, a move that she no doubt felt was better than sticking around and putting up with our childish nonsense. The last time I saw her, she was living a life common to high school drop outs (not a good one, I assure you). I don’t know what she is doing now, but I do wonder at times.
We often teach our kids how to not be bullied or how to deal with bullies. Maybe…no, we definitely need to start teaching our kids about how not to be bullies themselves. When I think about the torment that drove eleven year old Carl Joseph Walker-Hoover, to hang himself in his room, I think about that girl and how I didn’t have to be one of the A-holes in the crowd (in other words, a coward). I think about how I will teach my kids to be kinder and braver than I was.
Now I am by no means perfect. I can’t fool myself into thinking that I am completely reformed, but I’m not as bad as I used to be and events like the tragedy that occurred last week, remind me that I need to be better. I mean, I think I get it now. I believe I know why we as human beings (especially kids) shouldn’t dish out constant negative energy to those who don’t fit in. Because, if we were the outcasts, we wouldn’t be able to take it either.
*Carl Joseph Walker-Hoover (April 17,1997-April 13, 2009). May Angels Lead You In.