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.

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Rosh HaShanah/Yom Kippur Reflections

Last night I went to see the movie 50/50. It was a fantastic and powerful movie.  I think what hit me was how real the story was – and how incredibly relevant it could be. I hope to never experience anything like that and I hope no one I know has to experience it either. Movies like 50/50 typically make me rather introspective. One of the things that I remembered was that I had yet to post some thoughts on Rosh Hashanah, Yom Kippur, and the Jewish New Year.

Rosh Hashanah is the Jewish New Year. Yom Kippur is the Day of Atonement. This period, including the days in between, is often used for reflection and exploring hopes for the year to come. Importantly, it is also a time of asking for forgiveness. So, I ask everyone with whom I have interacted in one way or another to please forgive me for anything I may have done, said, thought against you, whether intentional or unintentional, during the past year.

What a year it has been! I met some amazing people. I have gotten to be better friends with old friends and made new friends, some of whom I wish I had known much earlier. I have learned a lot. I graduated from college with two degrees. I traveled around the world. I explored my understanding and grew my experiences of diversity and inclusion. I started a new job and the next stage of my life.

It hasn’t been easy. I have had amazing people supporting me. Sometimes I have let them down or have done things I should not have done. I am and will constantly challenge myself to do better and to be a better person. I know that I repeat mistakes, but I am trying to learn from them.

This coming year has a lot of potential. The job is still new. I have the potential for a lot of travel – personal, in addition to professional. I am able to spend more time with family. I need to stay connected with my friends, wherever they may be. It will be a big challenge, but I hope my wonderful friendships can and will continue. I also need to meet new people and grow my community in St. Louis. Who knows where that will lead?

Steve Jobs recounted a quote in his 2005 Commencement Speech to Stanford: “If you live each day as if it were your last, some day you will most certainly be right.” He followed that by saying that he asks himself a question every day: “If today were the last day of my life, would I want to do what I am about to do today?” This could be a little more of a negative outlook thank I like in some ways – but on the other had, I agree 100%. Life is short.  Make the most of it.  I hope that this coming year is one of life, happiness, health, success, and prosperity – filled with family and friends. I hope to be inscribed and sealed in the Book of Life. But since I cannot know what my future holds, I need to do the best I can with the life I have.

G’mar Chatima Tova!

Winnie the Pooh!

A new Winnie the Pooh movie comes out Summer 2011!  I am a huge fan, so naturally I am very excited.