Wednesday, March 31, 2010

Another thing I don't understand

Bullying someone to the point where they decide suicide is a suitable "out."

Now, granted: usually suicide results in cases where there is other underlying mental illness. But it sounds like these little thugs actually assaulted the poor girl (throwing a "beverage container" at someone counts as assault). And they used all the powers of technology to harass her.

The little snots are even leaving nasty messages on her memorial Facebook page. (I hope karma exists, and I hope she's a right bitch.)

I was bullied to a certain extent in school. I think all the smart kids were in my school system. But at least I could go home at the end of the day and the bullies didn't call me up - or try to harass me at home. (They probably would have been made very afraid by my dad if they had tried. My dad - especially back in those days - could be very imposing and very scary without laying a hand on a person, or even implying he was going to).

And while I was harassed in the halls, while I got called names, while people spread ugly rumors...I remember mainly thinking, "Once I get out of school (or: "once this year ends"), it will be better."

And the summers provided a respite, because the only people I "had" to see were my friends and family.

I guess I'm glad I'm not a teenager now. And that I'm not the parent of a teenager. I remember a few years back reading about how a group of "mean girls" ganged up on another girl and did things like leave messages on her parents' phone purporting to be from a teen-pregnancy clinic. And I thought that was pretty despicable. But I think the cyber-stalking is even worse: it's like the person cannot get away from the bullies, no matter what.

And here's what I don't understand: there are very, very few people in this world that I would say I actively dislike. And my way of dealing with people I dislike is to leave them alone as much as possible: not talk to them, not talk about them. Act as if their life was running on a parallel track to mine and we never had contact. It seems to me to take an enormous amount of time and energy to torment a person the way bullies do - time and energy that I would rather spend doing almost anything else: reading, embroidery, watching movies, running around outside. Even as a teenager I knew I'd rather spend my time not worrying about people I disliked. So I really don't get the bully mentality: is it fun? Does it make a person feel better about themselves?

I know: there are bullies in the adult world. I have to deal with someone (thank goodness, very infrequently) who can be somewhat of a bully. I tend to chalk that kind of behavior (especially among adults) up to some kind of deep-seated insecurity.That the person doesn't feel good about themselves, doesn't like themselves, and in some twisted way, making other people tremble or even cry in their presence somehow feeds their twisted egos.

But I don't understand it.

I have to admit, and I feel really bad about this now, but here is the 7th grade pecking order for you: there was a girl who was even less popular than I was. The other kids called her "Rat." I took to calling her "Rat." I didn't harass her AS MUCH as the other kids, but I did my share of piling on. I feel terrible about it now - I, of all people, should have known and understood. But the weird illogicality of the teenaged brain took over...and it really was  like seeing the chicken lower in the pecking order out in the yard, something kind of feral emerged, and I was mean to her. And it made me feel worse, when I stopped and thought about it. It made me feel like a heel, for being mean to a kid even less popular than I was: like, it was easy, and I was doing it because it was easy and because I guess I thought it would make me look 'good' in the eyes of the popular kids. (I really hope Stacey - that was her real name - grew up to have a happier life. I hope she's successful and happy enough that she can either forget seventh grade, or look back at it and laugh)

(And again: if I had a kid, things like this would be why, if I could at all manage to do it, I would homeschool them. Yes, kids need "socialization" but there are some kinds of "socialization" that take place in the schools that do more harm than good).

Despite all of that - I fail to see how an anti-bullying law is going to do anything. Other than maybe enrich a few lawyers after families decide to file class-action suits against bullies' families.

I don't know a good solution to bullying. I wish I did. I think parents teaching their kids to be compassionate is a good start, but I know in this society we can't always count on parents. Maybe allowing teachers to throw disruptive or mean kids into some kind of alternate-school arrangement would help. But I think an anti-bullying law will just be Zero Tolerance all over again, where basically good kids get whacked with huge punishments for either doing something totally innocent, or for a little slip-up, and the truly mean bullying kids will just find another, perhaps even worse way, to torment other kids.

1 comment:

Dave R. said...

Those of other faiths, or of no faith, often question why the concept of Original Sin is part of Christianity. How could small children, even babies, be contaminated from birth?

The truth is, rudeness, cruelty and thinking the world revolves around ourselves are natural human attributes. So is the mistaken idea that a person can rise higher in prestige by making someone else sink lower. Kindness and empathy have to be taught. Those who don't learn those lessons by the time they're adults are called sociopaths, and I worry that our middle schools and high schools seem to be turning out more and more of them.

Or maybe such incidents are just being publicized more than they used to be, which might serve as a warning to educators to be more on the lookout as to how students treat their peers. I hope this second possibility is the case.

Thank you for your confession, Ricki. I was a popular kid but now, many years later, I go through a lot of self-recrimination about the unpopular ones. I didn't torment any of them, but I didn't go out of my way to make them feel accepted and wanted, either--and I should have.

And so we ask God's forgiveness, "for what we have done and for what we have left undone."