Thursday, 10 May 2012

Dear Bully,

Your fifteen minutes may soon be up. I would like to take this opportunity to call you out, sir. You were not a merry prankster; you were a bully. You may actually not remember these bullying incidents, but I guarantee you, the people you hurt do. I was bullied all the way through elementary and high school. It’s in part why I was an alcoholic by the time I was 20. It’s also why I became an elementary school teacher. In my forty something years on Earth, I have learned a few things about bullies.

Here’s what I know. I KNOW bullying hurts; emotionally, psychologically, physically, and spiritually. In 1943, Abraham Maslowe wrote about our innate needs as human beings. Here’s my favourite version of the chart.

 I am proposing here what I'd like to think of as Sparrow's Theory of Belonging;  bullying prevents self-actualization by destroying one's sense of community. Being bullied makes CRYSTAL clear that the victim is other. They are not of the community, they are shunned. THEY DO NOT BELONG. That's the message, right? We get that. Those of us who have been bullied understood that message loud and clear. It's why we end up joining gangs, or becoming alcoholics and addicts, or why the bullied sometimes turn into the biggest bullies. Fight back and gain acceptance; that's the message lots of people give their bullied children with the best of intentions. For those who have been beaten down too far to fight back, or who know that yes, they are outside of what's societally acceptable in the primitive culture that is High School, that's not possible. That's why bullying causes suicide. The tormentors, though? Many of them go on to be successful and happy, because they can rationalise away their actions as High School Pranks.

I went to a high school where pranks were a big part of the graduation hijinkery. (GO SEMI TOTEMS!)
Sneaking onto the rugby field with dozens of bottles of bleach and spelling out GRAD 83 is a prank. Getting the rugby team to carry a 1970s Mini Cooper down a flight of stairs so you can drive it through the hallway (yes, really!) is a prank. Climbing over a barbwire fence to 'borrow' a speedboat and then chickening out halfway through is stupid, but it's still no more than a prank.* Pranks are funny and harmless. Pushing someone to the ground and cutting off their hair? NOT A PRANK!

I have a bad left shoulder. Perhaps this is due to the prank I was part of in 6th grade, when I was shoved from behind into a portable classroom wall. I'm pretty sure I hit it with my left cheek Pushing someone to the ground and cutting off their hair is assault. Saying "Attagirl" to a gay male classmate is hate speech. And by all that is good and pure in this world, DRIVING THOUSANDS OF MILES WITH YOUR DOG IN A BOX ON TOP OF YOUR STATION WAGON is animal abuse. 

This is the TWENTY FIRST CENTURY, Mr., and I am afraid that your ideas (Assaulting people is harmless fun! The dog loved it!) do not belong here. Please go away. Soon.

I wish you well in your life, and out of mine.

* I actually participated in one of these events in High School. Guess which one?