Let’s start with this link: http://www.facebook.com/?ref=tn_tnmn#!/humanrightscampaign and see “Lady Gaga” article.
Lots of comments flowed, but what really pushed my “gotta reply to this” button was this:
RA said: “Some solid martial arts training will do more to stop bullying than singing Kum Bay yah around the campfire……I like and respect lady gaga, think she’s a great singer, and she gives bullied kids hope. But Hope will not save you from a beating. Knowing your martial arts will.”
“But what about the bullied kids who did try to fight back and got in more trouble than the bullies? Stop the source and you don’t have to do anything. Stop the bullying and martial arts becomes another class you take for the spiritual and physical lessons it teaches. And martial arts won’t help if the bullying is ONLINE–which has caused suicides by those who were being bullied. It’s good to be able to protect yourself, but how do you do it against a crowd, when you’re outnumbered? Get a stick? Get a gun? Follow your own logic to the inevitable conclusion: Violence begets escalating violence. Remember Columbine, where the bulllied kids fought back with ultimate force against the bullies…and did NOT kill anyone who had been nice to them even just once. ZERO TOLERANCE FOR BULLYING!!!”
I want my last sentence to be the new battle cry for everyone who has every been bullied: ZERO TOLERANCE FOR BULLYING!
I have known and still know way too many people who were (or ARE being) bullied. I was also bullied. It is unfortunately human nature to pick on those that we perceive as weaker than ourselves–when we doubt our own strength. I don’t just mean physical strength, of course. I also mean mental or emotional strength. When someone doubts themselves, doubts their own abilities, doubts their very own worth as a being, it opens up a path to belittling those who seem unable. Unable to fight back, unable to respond with a witty comeback, unable to demonstrate what is your concept of worth and to demand the respect it deserves.
It’s so easy to say that bullies are just weak people who make themselves feel stronger by bullying others. That is part of it. Bullies are also people who belittle, deride and sneer at others who are different. They are not just weak, they are fearful. Did you know that a silent but fearful dog is more likely to bite you than one that is barking? That fear of the unknown begins with the fear of not knowing self. And I mean truly, truly knowing who you are. We are not the labels we use to describe ourselves. We are not “jock” or “nerd”. We are not “faggot” or “straight”. We are spiritual beings, having a human experience! We are so much more than any label, any description of external behavior, appearance or “what others say/think about us”.
Labels only limit who we are. Descriptions chain us into a mold that we probably don’t even fit. But until we know who we are, in the depths of our own souls, we buy into those labels and descriptions, trying to find out which one is us. And the answer is: none of them. Labels are so transitory, so ephemeral that we really shouldn’t stake our entire being on any one of them. Example: a child begins life as someone’s son or daughter. The first label they get is “our baby”. Well, that only lasts until the kid is running around…and only gets used later on as a nostalgic reminder of days gone by. They grow up, becoming “a toddler”, “a preschooler”, “a Kindergartner” and so on, ad infinitum and nauseum…label after label, each one left behind as “no longer true” when the new one is applied.
Even the label “bully” is a transitory description. I know, it may last longer than one would hope, but it generally is not true of someone’s entire life. If it is, I feel so sorry for that person I could weep. When you have the fear of being perceived as weak (generally in a physical sense, such as in sports, but in any aspect of life) and you do not have the knowledge of just exactly who you are, it can lead to the (emotional) attachment to any group that allows you to have a sense of self. When that group consists of others who also are fearful and weak, because you know that “Birds of a feather flock together, And so will pigs and swine; Rats and mice will have their choice, And so will I have mine.”–then bullying someone outside of that cohesive unit easily becomes a bonding behavior within the group.
Group bullies usually occur IRL (In Real Life): on the playground, in the workplace, and at any structured group activities (team sports for example). The bullying feeds on itself as there is an audience, an approving and encouraging audience, cheering on the bullying behavior. No one roots for the person/s being bullied…they are, in the classical sense, the underdog, the victim, the scapegoat–the one who gets hurt so I don’t. Hard to fight back when you’re one against a crowd, even if that crowd holds people you might call friend. Don’t forget the “mob mentality” aspect of it and group bullies count on that.
Then there are the bullies who hide behind a computer screen, who believe that the anonymity of the Internet allows them to behave in a way that truthfully, many of them would not dare to do to your face. Remember the idea that someone who bullies is weak? What better way to be big and strong, at least in your own eyes, than to be Supreme Grand High Amazing Ultimate Potenate of the Universe on the Interwebs? To make smart (read: snarky) remarks on random people’s websites, to unwittingly express your own personal fears about your sexuality on sites that advocate LGBT rights by bashing or profanity, using inflammatory words and generally trying to wreak havoc, and to attack anyone whose personal life is perhaps a little more public than it should be. Doesn’t matter what they wrote, it’s not your right to make their lives a living hell by attacking them with words in a way that you wouldn’t dare to attack them physically face to face, IRL. It’s also disgusting to seek out the web life of someone you know, a classmate or coworker, and once again, hiding in cyberspace to attack them in a way that they can’t stand up to you because they may not know that “Death2Faggots” who always posts on their site is actually the person who sits next to them in class or at the office, every day.
No wonder that Internet bullying can lead to suicide. How can you fight someone when you don’t even know who it is? When it just might be someone you actually know in your daily life outside the ether? Someone you see every day, who smiles in your face and then plunges the knife of foul language and foul thoughts into your back from the safety of the World Wide Web. Imagine the despair that is caused, weep for those who could not go on, could not stand the attacks…
Our culture has developed the term and the concept for “zero tolerance” for illegal drug use, alcohol use and sexual harrassment. We need to develop the term and the concept of zero tolerance for bullying. It should never be allowed or glossed over. And as with sexual harrassment where the victim defines the behavior that is offensive, being bullying is determined by the one being on the receiving end, not by the one doing the bullying. There is no category, topic or lifestyle that is an acceptable target for bullying behavior. No one deserves it, no one should have to “toughen up”, or “just take it”, or “man up”–common phrases told to countless victims, meant to make them show how…ahem…manly they were, since a lot of bullying is generally done through a perception of them being weak. Funny how that works…those who are weak, having to prove their strength by…the humiliation of others.
It’s a nice thought to say, stand up to the bullies, to fight back…but as I said in my comment, violence begets escalating violence. A harsh profanity about one’s sexuality leads to a punch in the face which leads to a group beating when the bully comes back with his friends. Which leads to a group of the bullied banding together and going for a massive, pre-emptive unable-to-be-retaliated-against attack involving weapons from which there is no chance for any negotiated peace because at least one side of the conflict will be dead. The infamous “kids who shot everyone up” at Columbine had been bullied, harrassed and humiliated. Nothing had been done to deal with the situation, those who were doing the bullying were not stopped until finally, in their despair, they chose a path that lead to death all around. Their own death was preferrable to having to continue to live being bullied. And by killing those who had been tormenting them, they at least removed that portion of the population known as BULLIES.
Think there would have been a different story from that school if the administration had had the ZERO TOLERANCE FOR BULLYING policy? And instead of that, the school’s response was to ban trench coats.
I am telling you:
NONE AT ALL
Get the word out on the streets, my friends. Pass this thought onto anyone you know who has been bullied. Share it with your fellow teachers, ask your school administrations to enact it. Make it a cornerstone in your own organization’s policies. Sing it out at LGBT rallies, tell it to your children. Live it in your own life.
Make the bullying stop.