Listen To Their Voices – Stop Bullying Now!
April 23, 2012 2 Comments
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.