Bullying is no joke

There is a t-shirt slogan thanking people for being rungs on someone else’s ladder of success. It is an amusing, adult depiction of the serious childhood problem of bullying. My hometown recently printed its “helpful hints” regarding bullying.

The buzzwords of “understand, communicate, encourage, and take a stand” convince me the tips are aimed at the victim or target, not source. Perpetrator is probably a good word, for bullies will persist on the attack for as long as they enjoy an audience or ego-boost by making someone else miserable. Anything is ammunition, from a passion or participation to something gleaned from a curriculum lesson. “Band? Wuss, that’s not a sport!” I would have been happier not hearing a foreign word for excrement fertilizer, repeatedly.

I was bullied in middle grades a long time ago, but it’s still painful to recall. I was orally harassed, looted by locker mates, lucky enough to avoid being tripped on a staircase, and assaulted by the offending trio at the bottom. The people who were reprimanded for the transgressions were unrepentant afterward, complaining that their “fun day, weekend and life,” had been ruined. One parent excused their child’s abhorrence, as “kids will be kids.” Their kid was causing suicidal thoughts in someone else’s.

There’s one unavoidable approach that needs to be taken to combat bullying. The offender needs to be told unequivocally to knock their crap off. This requires a brave peer or adult to step forward and speak up, as the targets are often picked on for lock of defensive friends or tendencies. Bullies are often diabolically discreet, so as not to have their rushes of superior feelings curtailed.

They can now hide in cynical silence behind text and email assaults. Parents need to teach their kids simple civilities, including being told “no” and “stop that.” Bolstering ego should not come at the expense of debasing someone else’s self-esteem or well being.

I have encountered adults in positions of education or authority, whose self-worth seemed dependent on making other people feel worthless. Were they the mean girls and SOB’s in their grade school? One wonders.

Carolyn Marshall