Listen To Their Voices – Stop Bullying Now!

Sometimes I feel like the people who have the most to say are the ones who aren’t given the opportunity to say anything. Yesterday, I saw Bully – the movie/documentary that has been causing a stir because of its rating from the MPAA. It was an incredibly powerful series of stories; and these stories are emblematic of situations that affect each of us and each of our communities.

Throughout the movie I kept think “Did that ever happen to me? Maybe I was a bully to someone else?” You see, so many of us have been bullied. Fortunately, most of us have not been bullied to the extent shown in Bully. Yet, that does not mean that the bullying we have witnessed, committed, and observed is okay: far from it. Any amount of bullying needs to be stopped.

Bullying starts at a young age and that, I believe, is why the documentarians included the story of an 11-year-old boy who killed himself. 11 years old! I didn’t even know that 11-year-olds knew how to do that. But apparently they do. I firmly believe that the environment and the community in which one grows up will have a significant influence on one’s behavior and opportunities, probably the two most significant categories that influence bullying. Obviously there are social, structural, and institutional factors at play that provide substantial barriers to stopping and preventing bullying. But that does not mean that we should not work to stop bullying from occurring.

Excuses are wide spread in Bully, as they are in our communities. The problem becomes less personal when it is dispersed as a problem “nationwide” and dismissed when responses include non-committal statements such as “school buses [are] notorious for bullying.” But what about right here where we live? And what are you and I going to do about it? Bullying is a learned activity. As such, it can be unlearned.

Learning occurs in the places mentioned above – homes, communities, and schools. We come of age through the education system; and while schools cannot control what happens in the students’ homes, those individuals in charge of schools can control what happens in the school buildings, in the schoolyard, and on the school buses. To ignore or dismiss this responsibility is a failure to fulfill one’s duties to protect, raise, and educate children. If one is not willing to address bullying then that individual needs to be removed from that position and replaced with someone who can be effective at developing the next generations of leaders and thinkers.

Bullying occurs in situations besides being a student. It happens in the workplace. It happens in the grocery story. It happens on the highway. It happens when school officials and community leaders refuse to recognize bullying as a problem and neglect to address it. This may be due to a tunnel vision of sorts. Excuses such as “boys will be boys” do not address the root issue – plenty of boys are not bullies. And not all bullies are boys. Importantly, the excuses given for bullying are often the result of one’s personal, political, and religious beliefs as they relate to the cause of the bullying. The beliefs one holds are irrelevant when it comes to addressing the treatment of others and can actually turn those in positions of power into bullies themselves.

Whatever the bullying activity, whoever the target, and wherever the bullying occurs, we must all – each of us – become more aware and more proactive. We must address the causes of bullying, stop the bullies, and support the bullied. We must do this now – because even one lost 11-year-old is too many.

San Diego

I am writing this on the plane back to New Orleans after having spent the weekend visiting two friends in San Diego. What a great weekend! I have had a few experiences lately that have made me reflect on how fortunate I am to have so many great people in my life. Jess and Ari just confirmed this for me again.

I really liked San Diego. It is a beautiful city. There is still much more there that I would like to explore. We went to the beach, saw seals, did a bit of hiking along some cliffs over the ocean, and explored a bit around Balboa Park. Obviously there are some big tourist draws that we did not do, but hopefully there will be other opportunities for that. What we did do is spend time together.

It’s been almost two and a half years since I’ve seen Jess and almost six years since I’ve seen Ari. That’s crazy! It was so good to see them. I love how we were able to pick up like we’d just seen each other – though, we did cover the highlights of the last several years. Hopefully it will not be so long until the next time.

Yom HaShoah – Never Again?

Never Again! I helped start a group by that name at the University of Denver – focusing on Holocaust and genocide awareness and action. And because the Holocaust is tied to other genocides and awareness isn’t enough. Action is also needed. Yet, more needs to be done. Because genocide and the Holocaust are now terms that have been perverted to fit the use of so many who are looking to add a little drama, or a little extra “oomph,” to their cause. But that’s exactly it – they do not add to a cause – they are the cause. They are the cause because nothing should ever happen like this. And nothing like this should ever happen again and again.

So, learn what’s happening around the world. I know I was well informed about genocide. But then I got busy. Well, other people got busy too – killing entire groups of people because of who they are. I challenge myself and everyone else to do more, to do better. Because “Never Again” seems to have just become “Again” – and that should Never happen.

Yom HaShoah – Holocaust Remembrance Day.