Saturday, September 3, 2011

Mean Kids


So, lately the bullying talk is sparking everywhere. Is is a normal, natural thing that should be allowed? Or is is a destructive force that should be punished? Well, as someone who was bullied, my opinion is pretty clear. Oh, I was generally not singled out, and beaten or anything. Just the minor day-to-day cruelties heaped on me unthinkingly by people who believe they are entitled to hurt anyone they please, whenever they please.

Now, you might wonder at my use of the word people, rather than kids, or teens. Well, as far as I am concerned, people are people, whether old or young. I tend to believe that who you are at 8 years old is who you are at 80, deep down. All that change is really surface stuff, and if you feel entitled to hurt people at 8, you probably feel entitled all your life.

I have heard the arguments. Bullies make you strong. Being pushed around gets kids ready for the real world. Well, in the real world it is not okay, or legal, for people to harass you at your job. Also, if being bullied prepares you for the real world, then the bullies themselves are not prepared, are they?

I was looking through my freshman yearbook. I noticed that I had viciously scratched out the pictures of a bunch of people. I don't remember these people. To my adult eyes, they look just like any other teen - fresh-faced, smiling, relatively innocent. However, I vaguely remember when I got that yearbook, I went through and scratched out the pictures of everyone who ever had even the slightest mean word for me, and circled the ones who had ever shown me even the most offhand kindness. The were far more scratched out than circled.

This tells me what bullies really do. They teach mild-mannered pacifist types like me to hate. Yes, I am very mild in general, slow to anger, and deeply against violence. However, steeped in teen hormones and casually treated like crap, I hated these people. They were walking down the hallway a week, a month, hell several months later, and when I saw them, I directed a bolt of hate their way, which generally they were unaware of.

I was quiet. A reader. I wore heavy metal t-shirts, wore no makeup, and had probably the worst haircut ever. After the initial nastiness, these people probably never gave me another thought. And yet, as they wandered through their day, thinking about homework, classes, boyfriends or girlfriends, there was someone out there, silently hating them. It makes me think of all those cop dramas where they ask the victim's family or friends if there was anyone who would want to hurt them, and the family says something like "No! Everyone loved Joe Blow! He was great!". How would they know, if Joe was casually horrible to someone two months ago. Someone he didn't know, or even remember.

So, no, I don't think bullying is okay, and a necessary part of life. I don't think it teaches life skills to either party. I don't think it makes anyone stronger. I don't think that people should feel like mistreatment of others is normal, natural and consistent with being the good guy (which everyone thinks they are). I think that attitude should be corrected as soon as possible. Because if it isn't, when someday you have some emotionally fragile furious stalker who may or may not become dangerous, I will find it very hard to have any sympathy for you, and my usual way is to have sympathy for nearly everyone. Because as angry and bitter as I may sound to you, I don't wish anyone any harm. Not even those nameless people who were mean to me a million years ago when I was just an overgrown child struggling to get through my day.

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