02/29/12

All Bully

You know what the research shows?

Bullies are the most disliked students at school.

I know. I can break news.

You know who is the second most disliked?

Yep. Hipsters and Miami Heat fans.

No, no I’m sorry. Wrong survey.

Bully victims.

Do you know what that means?

They had it coming.

Wait, sorry, again. Wrong poll.

It confirms what we already understood: Bullies and their victims are on a predestined collision course.

To be more specific, the research shows that while victims certainly suffer emotional effects from bullying, like depression, many of those emotional markers are already present before the abuse begins. It’s like a bully pheromone. Depressed, withdrawn, awkward. For some reason those qualities infuriate us. Not just bullies. Bullies are just the ones hard wired to act on that fury.

Again, this isn’t really news. Ever since Ralphie got his glasses broke by Scot Farkus and Lucy pulled the football away, we’ve understood that perceived weakness tends to invite bullying. See. You had good reason to hate that whiner Charlie Brown’s guts.

The Ohio school shooting this week is a mounting tragedy. It has now claimed three lives. It is only one school shooting in the company of numerous others at this point. As far as we can tell, they aren’t typically perpetrated by the bullies. But, their victims.

To be clear, there is no specific evidence that proximate bullying led to the shooting in Ohio. In fact, the prosecutor seems to dismiss it as the cause. (It’s funny that the randomness of the shooting victims is somehow evidence to law enforcement that bullying cannot be a part of the equation.) I think in time, though, we will find that ostracization is a part of T.J. Lane’s story.

Our sensitivity to the bullying pandemic is at an all time high. For years now, groups and media outlets have brought increasing awareness to it. There is a movie. (That ironically can’t be seen by any bullying victims under the age of 17, which eliminates upwards of 100% of the intended audience.) Numerous books and news exposes. Campaigns.

My wife, Susan, suffered a pretty nasty spell. Purchased one of those gum ball machine molded plastic rings because all the other girls had one. Proudly wore it to school only to discover that it was the signet for the “I Hate Susan Fan Club.” I’ve always thought it wasn’t anything a Delorean, 1.21 gigawatts of power, and a pair of brass knuckles couldn’t swiftly rectify, though.

I don’t know what people were thinking. I’ve tried to cross my wife and she kicked the cr@p out of me. Not with her fists mind you. Weak wrists. But, she has this look that’s a cross between Zoolander’s “Magnum” and like a laser beam. Brrrrrrrrrrr. Shivers just thinking about it.

[Correction: Um, it has come to my attention that my wife is not as aggressive and intimidating as the previous paragraph may have erroneously implied. My apologies to any offended parties or party.]

But, regardless, it’s given her occasion to share with others powerfully about it. (That’s where I got all the great research!) She emphasizes two things: (1) a little, not a lot, of courage and outward esteem, like a drop, and (2) zero tolerance.

We have to equip our kids to be sure. Of themselves. Just enough. Not to act tough. Or brag. Or to fight bullies. Or strike a pugilist pose to wave them off like with a torch. But, long before the crowd circles up to voyeur the fight or the taunts, we need to make our kids invisible to the bullies by making them visible to the world.

Second, we just can’t tolerate it anymore. As parents, as administrators, as a society. This is going to sound like a hard left, but we take the same view of prison rape. “That’s just jail.” “You can’t police it all.” “Boys will be boys.” (Err, maybe not that last one.) It’s maddening. I’ve never understood the complacency concerning such a horrible thing, even where the victims otherwise have forfeited their rights in collective sympathy.

Similarly, we say, “Bullying is just part of growing up.” “It’s what boys do.” “Don’t be a tattle tail.” “They’ll outgrow it.”

Some will. But, apparently at least a handful, let’s say, in Ohio, won’t. And Columbine. And Blacksburg. And, San Jose State. And, Carlsbad. And, Red Lake. And, so on and so on.

My buddy was in this rap group from Upstate New York called All Bully. Grammatically, it doesn’t even make sense. You are an “all bully”? “All” of you are bullies? You’re “bully” through and through?? It’s a modifier where you expect a noun. Anyway, I just thought it sounded mad hard.

But, in truth, most bullies are “all bully” and no bite. When our kids exert themselves and improve their own esteem they’ve gone a long way to neutering a bully’s power.

For all of today’s focus on bullying, I do not mean to distract from the horror and tragedy of the Ohio attack and its victims and their families and friends. They are in the center of our thoughts and prayers.

Happy Leap Day.

By the way, my wife is the sweetest, most caring person I know. She is the dire, dire opposite of anything bully.

Performed by ipoetlaureate. Music produced by Fab Da Eclectic.

Today’s song blog here:

No Bite