Friday, May 13, 2011

Man in the Mirror

It is Friday the 13th! Since I am not in the least bit superstitious…..I have no real worries on this day.  However…I hear Mulvane High School may have a problem. Apparently they have been inundated with…………..Zombies! Normally I would ignore such a crazy rumor…BUT last night I saw them with my own eyes! They were fantastic. MHS is putting on their spring theater production of Night of the Living Dead. Parents of the cast and crew were treated to their very own night and I must say……I was not disappointed. I was also rather impressed with my own personal zombie. He seemed to get into the role quite comfortably complete with undead movements and low guttural growls. He did good! They all did in fact! If you don’t have anything going on tonight or tomorrow night and are in the mood for a little scary/campy fun… really need to head to MHS and see Night of the Living Dead!!!!!
Okay…..moves soapbox to center stage and jumps up on it! I am mad! No….I am beyond mad! I am angry and frustrated and I guess ultimately disappointed. I am going to pose the same question to you that I posted on fb. The question is: Have you ever been bullied? As a kid? As an adult? Or how about this....have you ever bullied? Now all that replied (and there were quite a few) were adults. Most everyone who replied had at one time or another been bullied. Some were bullied as kids in school, some at home and some as adults in the workplace. ALSO….many admitted that they too had bullied at least once in their lives. If bullying is put into perspective and definitions are put into place….I would almost bet those numbers would go up.
Someone once told me that bullying was subjective and that people chose to be offended or not. I was really rather shocked at such a simplistic statement and had to wonder if in fact this person was not a lifelong bully himself. Granted….we can choose how we allow someone or something (even bullying) to affect us, but bullying is in my opinion a little more defined than that. Also….there have always been bullies. You are always going to run into people that are so unhappy and so insecure in their own skin, their own life and their own sexuality that they have to pass that unhappiness and insecurity along to others. But today….it just seems like bullying has taken on a whole new life of its own….especially in the schools. And while I have a pretty good understanding of where it comes from and why…..I have to ask….when are we going to take steps to make it stop?!
I live in a small community with many people I have known for decades. I was bullied in school. Middle school was the worst of it. Back then bullying mostly consisted of name calling, backstabbing and gossip amongst the girls and pushing and shoving amongst the boys. In most cases a girl would hate you and talk about you behind your back and call you names to your face one day and by weeks end….she would have moved on to someone new. The guys often times would push and shove and maybe call a name or two until one or the others teen hormones boiled over. Usually there was a fist fight and then by weeks end the boys were buds again….the fight was forgotten and life moved on.  Only once do I remember a situation getting out of hand. There was a girl who was both a jock and popular. She hung with our version of the “cool” kids and she seemed to have her place in the social stratosphere of school. I have no idea what set it off or why her friends turned on her….but they did with a vengeance. This poor girl was so ostracized that she turned to my social group for comfort (and believe me… social groups go....I am sure to her we were a huge step down the ladder.) We accepted her….heck we accepted everyone. Our world though….was not hers and her previous social group were not happy with her finding solace anywhere…so they bullying continued. Finally it got so bad that this girl was to the point of at least threatening bodily harm to herself. This is where our gym teacher stepped in. I remember her calling all of us girls in and reading us the riot act over how this girl was being treated and how we treated each other. Apparently the message took, because by days end our group had lost its newest member as she happily was welcomed back into her old clique....and the bullying never seemed to get out of hand again. Don’t get me wrong….there was still gossipy stuff, and girls stealing other girls guy fights, and even a little nastiness from time to time….but never again was the line crossed by our girls where someone was pushed so far. Reading my fb answers though…..some of the people who were in different classes than myself, but still at our school, ended up with a much different experience. Many felt bullied, humiliated and cast out by their fellow students their entire jr. high and high school years. My question here is….why didn’t someone step in and stop this? Why didn’t just one teacher (not unlike our own gym teacher) stand up and say ENOUGH! Why didn’t another student stand up and say STOP! Do teachers feel that boys should be able to handle it better than girls? Do teachers feel that kids need to work these things out for themselves….or are teachers simply afraid that if they step in…..that they too will be bullied?
Of course....if you have read my blog for any period of might surmise that this particular subject stems from experiences at school....that Z has had. While this year has been much better than his middle school experiences....the bullying is far from over. In middle school Z was bullied to the point of being in tears every day he had to go to school. And the bullying went much farther than just a little name calling. Practically every day of school Z was threatened, shoved, pushed, called a fag, hit and made fun of in some way. One kid told him he wished Z were dead and another started a rumor that Z killed his dad (Z's dad died of a brain aneurysm when Z was five.....he was alone in the house with his dad when it happened!) Z was at the end of his rope and much of this was happening and he wasn't telling anyone.....not even me. Finally it came to a head and he just exploded. When I realized what was happening....the school and I collided.  And here is where the schools stand:1) Over half the kids that are bullied in school never report it and if it is not reported....nothing can be done. 2) If the teachers/principals don't see it happen.....then it becomes one students word against another and sides cannot be taken. Therefore....if a kid reports another student bullying them....and that student denies it, basically nothing can be done unless the bully is seen or caught by others. This means the bully gets off scott free and the kid who was being bullied usually gets bullied twice as bad for telling. Great system....huh? Sadly though....with the way the world is today.....I kind of understand it. 
I ended up pulling Z out to go to Eschool (online school) for a year and a half...and life went on. Z actually thrived in his school work because he didn't dread doing it every day and he could actually spend his time on school work and not worry about who was lurking behind every corner or who was going to go after him physically or verbally. 
This year (his freshman year) has been much better for Z. He chose to go back to school and he has become friends with alot of kids. He has excelled in his passion of music and theater and has done his best to find his place in the big world called high school. His hs classification is probably theater geek or music nerd which he wears proudly. Unfortunately even in the somewhat matured world of hs.....bullying is alive and well and apparently Z is once again a target. He says rarely a day goes by that he is not called a fag or assorted other names. And he has spent more time in the office fending off false stories that have been started about him than he has actually spent in class. Practically the whole theater crew for their newest production was ready to kill him because a couple of young ladies who do not like Z went and told everyone he was walking out on the show. Even the teacher/director was mad until Z finally was able to explain to everyone that he in fact had never said or thought that. The final straw was the other day when Z went to school and he had kids coming up touching his face to see if he was bruised or beat up. For some unexplainable reason some kid that Z rarely even talks to came to school with a broken hand and said that it happened when he beat the sh!t out of Z in the hallway at school. He went so far as to say that "the whole school" saw it and that Z's face was beat to a pulp. Needless to say.....Z's face was fine and no one had really seen it happen....thus the curiosity with Z's face. Again....Z spent time in the office explaining that he hadn't even talked to this kid....let alone been hit by him. But the wildfires of gossip are burning brilliantly at MHS and because Z denied it the kids is threatening that it will in fact happen before school is out! Please!
Z has about had have I. I AM ANGRY! After talking to the principal at the high school....who I like and think she has a pretty good handle on thing became abundantly clear: Hands are tied until kids speak up and kids are not going to speak up as long as they feel threatened, feel that they are going to be treated even worse if they do speak up.....and as long as bullying is accepted by the majority! And this goes above and beyond school and into the real world. Any place in life where bullies reside whether it be school, work, home, long as there is acceptance...there will be no change.
So here is what I told Z. First of all you have to define bullying. When asked what he thought bullying was, he said....being mean to other kids, calling names, lying about them and starting rumors about kids. I agreed and added: any time someone threatens another person, physically or verbally abuses another person, lies about or gossips about another person and finally....anyone that stands by and watches someone else bully someone and does nothing about it.....that is bullying! Z immediately realized that as bullied as he has been....he has also done a bit of bullying himself by gossiping and yes....watching someone else get bullied and doing nothing about it. 
Z and I decided that from this moment on.....stopping bullying cannot be left up to the principal or the teachers. It has to start at the student level. How do you start and what do you do? One person has to say NO! I will not allow you to bully me or anyone else! It has to be said loud and it has to be said often! If one person has the courage to stand up then maybe another one will and another one, until maybe one day the bullying will stop. It only continues because it is accepted. The minute it quits being acceptable....then it will dwindle away. These kids need to learn to respect both themselves and others and they need to treat as they want to be treated. If not....they are going to continue a pattern of abuse and bullying throughout their lives. It will follow them into the workplace and their home and they will pass it onto their kids and as we have seen....each generation seems to be getting worse.
How's this all going to pan out? I am not sure, but last night....I took my own advice and decided to start being the change I wanted to see in the world. I stopped a family bully dead in his tracks by first pointing out that his behavior was that of a bully and always had been and that I would no longer tolerate it. To my shock and amazement....he backed down. He had never before seen himself for the bully he was and I think he was shocked to his very core. Today....Z went to school prepared to be the change. He is not shy and he is tired of the abuse. I have no doubt if bullies were present today....they were called out!
There are bullies in all walks of life. We all know at least one. Maybe we work with them, go to school with them or even live with them. Maybe they know full well they are a bully but continue on with their bullying ways.....because they are allowed to. Maybe though....they don't always realize the effect their actions have on others. Maybe they don't realize they are bullies. And maybe it was never made clear in our lives or maybe we simply forgot that standing by and watching bullying without making an effort to stop nearly as bad as the act itself. Whatever the case maybe.....isn't it time we took a stand and taught our kids to do the same? All we have to do is say: No! I will not be bullied...nor will I allow anyone else to! Who knows.....those words could be the key to one less bully in the world...and a world with one less bully has got to be good! 
So I am now jumping off my soapbox and ending this. I think I will end my blog today with a song that pretty much sums up how I feel about my part in all of this, Z's part in all of this....and yes....even your part in all of this. I leave you with Michael Jackson and Man in the Mirror. Happy Friday!
****** sorry for the late posting! Blogger has been down a good portion of the day!

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