Friday, October 01, 2010

Condoning Bullying

Unless you’re living under a rock, you know that Tyler Clementi committed suicide after his college roommate thought – I use that term loosely – it’d be a good idea to stream Tyler having sex with another man all over the Internet.

In response to that incident, Pam Spaulding, founder of the political blog, posted the above linked opinion piece on

She brought up two important questions:

• Who creates the bully?
• Who is accountable?

These behaviors start young, and whether they're manifested in homophobia, as they seem to be in this case, or in teasing others because of their faith, clothing, race or weight, we need to ask: Where do the parents and other influential adults in these bullies' lives fit in?

So, childhood memories have been floating to the forefront of my brain these last few days as more and more stories of teen-agers/young adults committing suicide, because of bullying, have hit the airwaves.

One memory in particular, but some backstory first . . .

I grew up in a very large neighborhood. There were tons of kids in every age group from babies to college students. Huge neighborhood. Kids of a certain age hung out in groups.

I grew up in the suburbs of Chicago. Winter Wonderland.

I remember one winter, not sure how old I was, snow forts in all the back yards, and a major snowball fight going on. One child – a friend, a schoolmate – was being picked on. Yes, even at a young age, a pecking order is established . . . and not in a good way. The kid finally had enough and went running home, crying. Everyone else followed, still tossing snowballs. Hey, it’s what kids do. I remember the kid’s mother saying “Don’t come running home for protection, never do that again, stand up for yourself.”

Yes, we all need to stand up for ourselves. But . . . this is where bullying gets pushed to the side, where parents tell their kids to grow up, to get tough, and yet do nothing about the fact that a group of kids was tormenting – yes, with snowballs – a single kid, and, that a good portion of those kids were 2 – 3 years older than the kid being pelted with a multitude of snowballs.

Yeah, in case you’re wondering, I was throwing snowballs too. It’s what we did.

What we – meaning kids do – isn’t so important in this situation. It is what the parents failed to do: recognize the bullying attitude.

You see, the snowballs from childhood turn into names: fatty, fatty, two-by-four, can’t fit through the kitchen door.

The snowballs from childhood turn into hateful names: faggot, queer!

The snowballs from childhood, if not stopped can – as the media this week has shown – turn into people feeling they have no where to run, nobody to turn to.

The snowballs from childhood can lead to . . . suicide.

We are a society geared toward not caring.

We are a society that is responsible – every single one of us – for the death of Tyler Clementi and so many other kids.

We as a society can no longer sit back and think oh, hey, it’s not my problem.

Yes, it is my problem.

It's cold, this learned anti-social attitude towards being different and it has a striking impact on university campuses.

This “learned anti-social attitude towards being different” must be stopped.

People like the Assistant Attorney General of Minnesota shouldn’t – free speech or not – be able to have a blog that puts a swastika over a gay man’s head . . . and think the behavior is okay.

People like religious leaders and politicians, while having every right to their opinions, shouldn’t be allowed – with their words and actions – to condone bullying on any level.

The people in power, the people with money and media limelight continue to spew their hate forth – NOM anybody – and condone bullying.

Those people, as well as the parents who do nothing, as well as every single individual who looks the other way . . . shouldn’t be allowed to condone bullying.

How many people must die before people realize bullying is wrong?