Posts Tagged ‘Kindness Above Malice’

Stand Up Against Bullying—Sitting By Is the Worst You Could Do

If you’re not actively waging war against bullying, you are letting this plague wash over the young people in your life. I have to admit, I have needed some education on this. Everyone gets or got bullied when growing up, right? Kids are cruel, childhood is tough. One kid is fat, one is queer, one is poor, one has something that doesn’t work the same way, one has a mom or dad with a bad reputation, one wears glasses, one has freckles, one is too smart, one not smart enough, one wore musty clothes to school one day and will never live it down…my learning curve started there. We all, in the Lord of the Flies environment of the playground and field, banded against one another, with a new target always presenting itself, to try and divert attention from each of us. It never worked, we received the sharp tongues and sometimes pummeling fists, and prayed for tomorrow when it would be someone else’s turn.

Well, bullying is different now. We could go home and shut the door and likely find solace in hot stinging tears and the radio or records that gave voice to our pain more eloquently than we knew how. We likely didn’t tell our parents, but maybe a sibling knew. Certainly a friend did, but the teachers were probably in the dark. We pushed our way through our resistance and readied for battle one day after the next at school, counting the minutes as that clock on the wall clicked backward and then forward at an agonizing pace. Maybe we ran home to beat the crowd, or stayed after with a thin excuse so the heaving mass that seemed pitted against us would go ahead and mercifully find distraction elsewhere. But we got home. And we exhaled.

Now, when a kid gets home, and looks for some tether, some connection to make him or her feel normal or OK, they wake up the computer, and the first instinct is to go to social networking sites–the very language of which is all about “friends” and has even turned “friending” into a verb…and there they find the harshest and cruelest onslaught of all. Then the cellphone pings a text notification, where an anonymous sender has posted a message more cruel than you or I remember kids could be. There is not the escape we once had. Bullies have 24-hour access and can publicly humiliate a victim from the comfort of their own room. There has never been any question that bullies are the most insecure of all, but in their weak and desperate grab for feeling some of their own power, the sky is the limit for the devastation they can bring upon a psyche, self-image, soul, life, and family. It is not just the 24-hour news cycle that makes us think bullying is a bigger issue than it ever was…it is the truth.

Marlo Thomas has just written about the vastness of the issue, and against the backdrop of her groundbreaking album from the 70s, Free to Be You and Me, she, as all of us must, mourns the loss of that freedom in today’s more oppressive climate. She says (in a longer entry on Huffington Post that you ought to read in its entirety here), “For all the walls we thought we’d broken down with Free to Be — and all the stereotypes we thought we’d shattered — children today are not free to be anything they want to be, nor anything they are, and they are dying for it. And no beautiful lyric can fix that.”

Marlo was inspired by a father who wrote on her facebook page of the loss of his son to suicide forced by bullying. That dad, Kevin Jacobsen, created Kindness Above Malice, an organization to help shed light on bullying. Visit the KAM website (Kam was Jacobsen’s son’s name—Kameron), and then visit the topic with the young people you know. Your children, nieces and nephews, scouts, neighbors, kids of friends, grandchildren…don’t let them suffer in silence. Talk about it. Talk the shame away. Pulling pigtails is one thing, but these kids are pulling knots…around their necks…and we are all responsible to them.