Yes, she's strange and different...but not THAT different.

03 November 2010

Bullies

This is a story that only one other person has ever heard, and she only heard it recently. I'm telling it publicly now, but it's not a typical story about being bullied. As a tall, skinny, effeminate kid in elementary school, I had a few problems but nothing I couldn't handle by being an outgoing, funny, smart ass. Then in 4th grade when I was 9, a genuine bully entered my world, and I was his primary target. I took his abuse, physical and verbal, and no one came to help me because this kid was bigger than all the other kids and intimidated everyone. I was ashamed because I knew he was right - that I was different and girly and deserved to get hit - and I never told an adult about his abuse. But finally, after about 3 months of being a target, I got tired of taking it and at recess one day I snapped and ambushed the kid with a bag full of books. Out of anger, I hit him hard and took him down and yes, I beat him up. He never picked on anyone at our school again. And, as if some kind of magical aura surrounded me thereafter, no one ever bullied or picked on me again. In the over 50 years since then, the worst thing that has ever happened to me was to once be called a "faggot" by a drunken teenager in a hotel bar in Pennsylvania. But I never told anyone what I did because to this day I feel guilty about hurting that kid because although he was an asshole, he was still only a kid like me. And I've never forgotten what anger can do to anyone - even a nice, funny, effeminate kid - when it's channeled in a destructive, physical direction. That guilt and that lesson have been major factors in how I've tried to live my life.

Having done volunteer work in a shelter for abused women and children, I know that bullies quite often grow up to become domestic abusers. Yes, we need a zero tolerance policy towards bullying in our schools (and society in general), and we need to protect all our kids. However, I think that until we treat EVERYONE with the same respect and dignity - and more importantly, teach our own children to do so, not just with words but also by our own example - that this problem of bullying will not go away. We need to ALL be truly aware of our shared humanity and not be distracted by our minor differences in order to get past treating those who are different as "things" not worthy of our respect. We need to wear purple in our hearts every day.

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