Bullying . . . It’s Not Just for Kids

Bullying on IRFE in March 5, 2007, the first c...

Image via Wikipedia

We live in a land of Bullies.

No, I’m not just talking about the bullying of the school years that has become such a prominent story in the news. That bullying, I believe, is a result of the world we live in. The bullying of the teen years becomes more horrific because of the additional challenges of a changing body. It is amazing anyone survives.

But, that bullying or the feelings that come from it don’t disappear in adulthood. It’s not like we achieve a miracle age where nothing can bother us anymore. Think about it. Have you ever looked in the mirror (both literal and figurative) and disliked what you saw? Perhaps you see fat, or age, or gray hair. Perhaps you see insecurity, unhappiness, failure. Perhaps you see loneliness or defeat.

Whatever you see, you are not looking through the eyes of reality. No, you are looking through eyes of insecurity–of all the fears, doubts, and discouragement you have witnessed throughout the years.

Those are the feelings that come from bullying.

I still carry in me the shy, insecure girl of my youth. I still carry within me the lonely girl who felt on the fringe of all groups, and never really felt like she had friends. I still carry the girl who never felt like she was quite good enough.

Of course, I recognize my accomplishments. I know that I have had successes in my life. But all it takes is one snub, or one feeling that I’m not invited to sit at the cool kids table, and that little girl comes out again.

But remember, those snubs are from adults, not children.

I just spent the last half hour watching anti-bullying videos created by high school students of a friend of mine. Students created these videos for an anti-bullying campaign/contest. If you would like to view them and/or vote here’s the link to the Facebook Page. And it is those videos that made me realize that we never grow out of bullying or feeling bullied. We just learn to internalize it, and hope that the behavior remains inside.

But it doesn’t.

So what can we do? We can work on being kinder to each other and setting a good example. We can remember how it felt when we were younger, and use those memories to create a better world. We can tune out the voices of the bullies and embrace who we are faults and all.

We can look in the mirror and accept ourselves.

Bullying is not just for kids, but neither is prevention.

Here’s another thought about bullying that everyone should read from The Life of Jamie.

The Culture of Bullying

 

Bullying on IRFE as of March 5, 2007 (the firs...

Image via Wikipedia

 

Bullying!

The word echoes through the air these days.  Every day you hear a new story or of a new death. For me, recently, each day brings a new awareness about the  pervasiveness of this issue.

I want to do something about it.

This week I conducted a workshop at a nearby high school on Performance Art. While Performance Art is not exactly my favorite type of theater, I think it is an interesting thing to introduce to high school students as it provides them an outlet to explore issues using art, theater, music, and other things to express themselves. I introduce the techniques by using a piece of literature or poetry (for this workshop I used “Ozymandias”). I also brought an extra poem to help out, this time one on bullying that I found on a WordPress blog http://bullypoems.wordpress.com/ (thank you to that blog writer).

The students were then given an assignment to create their own piece of performance art, with the only restrictions being that they respect each other and respect school rules. The results were interesting, with topics ranging from family relationships to feeling stressed about choices they needed to make in life. The majority of them, however, were about bullying.

Now, maybe that was a reaction to the poem I read them, but I think it goes deeper than that. In our discussions afterwards most of the students acknowledged that there is bullying at their school. Some of them hesitantly acknowledged to being victims.

More disturbing to me, however, were the number of people who acknowledged being witnesses to bullying, but who simply walked away.

Coincidentally, last night I was asked to adjudicate a performance at another area high school. The play they put on was Bang Bang Your Dead! by William Mastrosimone which explores the issue of bullying from the perspective of a boy who shoots 7 people (5 students and his parents). Not a light evening of theater, that’s for sure. There were two talk-backs after the performance, one for the audience and one between the adjudicators and the cast. Both were revealing.

The first showed that the parents and community are aware of the problem but feeling at a loss as to what can be done.

The second revealed what the kids had learned from this process. Many of them researched and became aware of the amount of bullying that exists in the world, and in their more immediate world. BUT, and this is a disturbing but, their understanding and new knowledge did not promote action. They shared a story that, after a school viewing of the show, some freshman started teasing and throwing food at the lead (the person who played the killer). Rather than saying something, he walked away!

How do we fix this? I know it is scary to confront bullies. I recognize that sometimes it is easier to hide our eyes and pretend we don’t see what is in front of us. But that way lies Columbine. That way lies 9/11. That way lies the Holocaust.

Now, I’m sure somebody will object to me connecting bullying with 9/11 or with the Holocaust, but what is bullying if not a form of intolerance? It is about someone showing power over weakness, or trying to pretend to have power by making others feel weak. In a way, bullying is human nature, in the sense of survival of the fittest. The strong win and the weak are destroyed. Bullying is not something that occurs just between children in school, it is just that in some ways adult bullying is more subtle. That doesn’t make it any less dangerous however.

If bullying is human nature, does that mean there is no hope of change? It has become crucial for us, as a society, to break free of this negative quality of human nature. We need to learn to respect and value diversity, otherwise there will never be an end to violence, hatred, death (by violence) and bullying.

I hope we can do it.

With more people like this hero, Joel Burns tells gay teens \”it gets better\”, we can.

Another important link about this: http://newsroom.blogs.cnn.com/2010/10/15/it-will-get-better/

And in a few short words, this person hits the nail on the head http://broadsideblog.wordpress.com/2010/09/30/they-taped-their-roommate-and-outed-him-on-the-internet-now-hes-dead/

When I Was Young . . .

 

The child is grown, the dream has gone.

Image by just.Luc via Flickr

 

“. . . I walked to school in snowstorms, uphill  both ways.”

Okay, not really. But, I spent all day Saturday directing a group of high school students in a play for the Inge Center’s 24 Hour Play Festival, and my experience there have made me reflect on the differences between high school students today, and high school students when I was one of them. I’m not thinking of this in the “What’s the matter with kids today” kind of way; rather I’m wondering what’s the matter with our society that has allowed young people to grow up so much faster and harsher.

Now, I admit, I was a naive goody-goody when I was in high school, so maybe my perception of reality isn’t a true one.  The students in my play did something that I would never have even thought of in high school; they made lots of sexual innuendos and told dirty jokes with me (a total stranger who is also an “adult”) in the room. I went along with it, trying to be the cool teacher in the room I guess, but I don’t know if that was the right thing to do.

I remember being a senior in high school when some male friends made reference to a sex act and I consciously made an effort to hide my embarrassment from them. I still remember the feeling of shock and maybe a little shame that I was so naive. Okay, I get it, people were having sex when we were in high school. But still, I don’t recall those jokes ever happening in the presence of adults.

The plays from the festival also reflect some kind of difference in society. Of the five plays, four of them were dark and dealt with issues ranging from incest to murder to psychological meltdowns. They were well written, but I did not expect that mix of topics from high school students. I thought there would be more humor . . . boy was I wrong.

I have to ask why? Have events like Columbine and 9/11 taken away innocence at a younger age? Are young people today inundated with images of sexuality, crime, depression, drugs, and murder to the extent that we are raising a generation not capable of enjoying innocent fun? Or am I simply still naive, hoping that the darkness of life can somehow be avoided in childhood.

These kids were great kids; fun, committed to creating good art and exploring things, very intelligent. At the same time, though, they were beyond me. I felt like the nerd in the group of popular kids. So maybe the problem is that high school really hasn’t changed. I don’t really think so though. I think we, as a society, are failing our biggest challenge–that of making the world a better, more peaceful place.

That makes me sad.

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