Bullies, Politicians, Me. Same same?

Wikipedia defines it as ” a form of aggressive behavior manifested by the use of force or coercion to affect others, particularly when the behavior is habitual and involves an imbalance of power.”

Bullying.

It is a national epidemic. Take a look at these horrifying statistics:

• Over half, about 56 percent, of all students have witnesses a bullying crime take place while at school.

• A reported 15 percent of all students who don’t show up for school report it to being out of fear of being bullied while at school.

• Along that same vein, about one out of every 10 students drops out or changes schools because of repeated bullying.

• One out of every 20 students has seen a student with a gun at school.

• Some of the top years for bullying include 4th through 8th graders in which 90 percent were reported as victims of some kind of bullying.

• Other recent bullying statistics reveal that 54 percent of students reported that witnessing physical abuse at home can lead to violence in school.

• Among students of all ages, homicide perpetrators were found to be twice as likely as homicide victims to have been bullied previously by their peers.

• There are about 282,000 students that are reportedly attacked in high schools throughout the nation each month.

And this fact: Suicide continues to be one of the leading causes of death among children under the age of 14.

I grew up the only child of a single mom. Money was scarce. Still, I don’t remember feeling “different” until Junior High. That’s when clothes and shoes and purses and backpacks started to matter. In high school, the bag I took to tennis tournaments had to double as my basketball bag, and girls – teammates no less – made fun of it. I hated getting in trouble, so I didn’t break rules – didn’t drink or swear or smoke. And some people made fun of that. What I took away from that experience is that kids are mean. They always have been, probably always will be. I saw and heard other kids being teased. I probably engaged in teasing. But not to the extreme level that exists today.

The rise of cyber/social media has taken this kind of teasing to a higher, more critical level. it is SO very easy to send a nasty text, to join in when others are on Facebook slamming someone. It is remote and removed. You don’t hear sobs or see pained looks.

Adults have responded by rallying behind a movie that depicts this horror for one young man, by starting online and realtime support groups, by selling T shirts and promoting “Wear this color to oppose bullying” days. All of which is appropriate.

What is inappropriate is the example we set.

This has been on my mind since last week, when I realized I was being a bully. Yes, I was.

My disdain for the political views of Sen. Rick Santorum, and those of his ilk, is obvious. In my opinion, his views are extreme, his personality both arrogant and mean-spirited. I have posted remarks on Facebook that are rather bully-ish regarding him and other politicians.

It isn’t a lie when I say my intention is to counteract what I see as lies or, at the very least greatly manipulated tales, from opposing views. My intention is to present another view.

To which my grandmother would say, “The road to hell is paved with good intentions.” And she would be correct. My intention is irrelevant when the outcome is a form of bullying.

Listen to people around you. Check your social media sites. Watch the news. Read a few internet articles. The world is full of bullies!

We label people, put them in boxes we have filled with anger. Libs. Tea baggers. Radical Right. Bleeding hearts. Queer. Baby-killers. Entitlement-seekers. Elitists. Etc etc etc…

Every side does it. Every group has rabid haters who want to label the opposing group. And those of us who are generally mild-mannered, people of faith, people who would never set out to purposely hurt someone? Well, we join right in, don’t we!

We are snarky about people, judging hair, clothes, relationships, weight gain or loss. We whisper about them in the grocery store and in church: “Did she NOT look in the mirror this morning??”

How can we expect our kids to be any different?

We put celebrities, especially athletes, on pedestals, then we can’t wait to tear them down. When Joe Paterno passed, the reaction of some people was truly appalling to me. People who had read nothing in-depth about the tragedy at Penn State, who knew nothing about the University or Coach Paterno’s incredible contributions to academics, people who haven’t made a point to pay attention to the story since. And yet, they felt justified in posting incredibly nasty remarks about a man who had just died.

Very few of us who call ourselves Steeler Nation know Ben Roethlisberger personally. Certainly, we are entitled to irritation when our Pro Bowl quarterback/team leader makes stupid choices in public. We don’t want to pay large amounts of money to watch a guy who, at least for that moment, clearly displayed a complete lack of character.

Are we also entitled to say things like, “He is nothing but a serial rapist,” or “How could that woman be stupid enough to marry him?” The people making these statements don’t know Ben or his wife. But we judge long and hard.

How can we expect our kids to be any different?

We scold our kids when they poke at each other, or torment with words, or draws lines on back seats and say “Don’t cross that!”

So why do Rush Limbaugh, Bill Maher, and others like them whose primary purpose is to stir controversy, have millions of faithful followers?

And we do likewise. Sharing items on Facebook before we check their validity. Being critical when we only know some of the facts. Posting statements we know for certain will cause a firestorm.

How can we expect our kids to be any different?

Kids are the best mirrors we have for our behavior and attitudes. They hear our road rage, our murmurings on the way out of church, our critique of the neighbors. They see our posts about political candidates, their wives, their supporters.

They hear us say the boss is stupid, no matter how many different bosses we have – and we wonder why they have trouble keeping a job at McDonald’s.

They hear us say teachers are paid too much, only work 3/4 of the year, and have an easy job – and we wonder why they are disrespectful in school.

They hear us being negative about the church, the pastor, other religions, the outlook for our own lives – and we wonder why we have to drag them out of bed on Sunday morning.

They hear is being bullies of a different kind – and they act in accordance with that.

Any of those touch a nerve with you?

Am I exaggerating? Using hyperbole to make a point? Out in left field?

Fair enough. All I ask is that you are mindful, for just 48 hours, of bully-like remarks, actions, posts. Your own and others. Just listen and look. You will be surprised.

So how can we expect our kids to be any different?

We can stop this epidemic of bullying. It will take a variety of paths and a multitude of people standing firm. I will donate money and wear a T shirt.                                                                                                       I will gladly be a motivational speaker, free of charge, at any event which helps kids being bullied.                I will keep praying.

But first and foremost, I will stop any action of my own that remotely resembles bullying.

What about you? Will you join me? Can we think before speaking or posting? Can we ask: Is it kind, is it true, is it necessary, and does it improve the silence?

Imagine what could happen if we did that? If we stopped labeling, stopped berating each other in cyberspace, stopped criticizing based on false or partial information, stopped antagonizing?

Imagine what could happen if we speak against people who continue to be bullies?

And just imagine how differently we might see our children acting.

Have fun being kind!

We will talk soon.

BP 🙂

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  1. So, today I added your blog to my blog reader, and a bunch of your posts were listed. I couldn't resist reading this one! Wonderful! Guilty as charged! Would like to be part of the solution instead of the problem! I already finished my post for Wednesday, but I'm going back in and linking to this… it relates.

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