When I was a kid, there was a certain classmate who delighted in bullying me.
Now, to be fair, I only really got on his radar because I had a tendency to be a bit of a smart aleck on occasion, and he was one of my favorite targets. He ran his mouth to everyone, and while most had the common sense to just let it pass, I had a tendency to seek him out for verbal attacks, even when he was busy picking on somebody else at the time. It wasn’t really a case of me being confrontational with him in a violent manner. No, my weapon of choice was to tease him.
And everyone within earshot would laugh at him.
Which would make him more angry.
Which, in turn, would lead to me getting pushed against a wall or being the recipient of a wedgie.
Funny story about that, actually. There was one time when he had gotten so angry at me that he pushed me into the closet with his fists balled up and a rage in his eyes so intense that I thought they were going to start bleeding. He told me that he hated me and was going to kill me after school, and, for some odd reason, it made me laugh. Long story short — a good cure for nervous laughter is to have somebody pull your underpants over your head. And it’s especially humbling when everybody sees your Spiderman Underoos and ...
But I digress.
Somehow or another, we ended up becoming pretty good friends over the years. It probably stemmed from the fact that we were on the same baseball team for years, or that familiarity with each other over time led us to realize that we actually had a lot in common, or that he just stopped being such an unbelievable jerkface that ...
Oops. Another digression. Sorry.
Regardless, we did become pretty good friends over time. We even joked around a lot during our high school years over the rough start to our relationship, and to be fair to him, he turned into a very nice guy who was pretty well-liked by everybody.
Why am I telling this story?
Well, there has been a lot in the news over the past couple years regarding how bad bullying has gotten. At first, I was dismissing this stuff as a case of our hysterical population overreacting to something that has been going on forever.
I argued to people that the fact that so many of these bullying instances that have grabbed headlines recently are only being noticed because kids have video cameras at their disposal now through their cell phones and our fame-seeking society leads them to post them online immediately. While my generation did everything within our powers to avoid getting caught by parents, teachers or authorities, this look-at-me generation is bending over backwards to showcase their stupidity as quickly as the upload to YouTube will allow them.
And, I still do believe that part.
But I also think the bullying has gotten worse — and more physical. Bullies of my day plied their trade largely through the aformentioned wedgies, noogies, Indian rope burns and bending one’s arm backwards until the victim shouted “Uncle.” Oh, people got beaten up by bullies sometimes, but it usually stemmed from a desire to obtain one’s lunch money or because the Irish kid with the big mouth said something inappropriate.
Now it seems to be more violent. It seems to be more personal. And it seems to be more rampant.
My wandering mind started thinking about why this was happening, and seemingly getting more severe every year. It has to be more than the lure of becoming an Internet sensation for a few hours, right? Is it because these kids have no fear of repercussions from their parents anymore? Is it because society in general is getting more separated through political fighting and socio-economic classes?
Or is it because there are more and more kids that are jerkheads these days?
It’s hard enough growing up without living in fear of getting physically attacked every time you walk out the door. Parents, talk to your kids. Explain how bad bullying is for everybody. Tell them that they need to tell you if somebody is bullying them.
Yes, teachers and administrators are trying what they can when your kids are at school, but they can only do so much. Take control.