Three Hundred and Fifty Six…making each day the best…just in case the Mayans got it right.
I’m putting a rough stone in place on my cyber pyramid today. I didn’t say they’d all be smooth. If it rubs you the wrong way, add some hieroglyphics of your own. Some people have already left their mark on my pyramid wall and it is a welcome surprise.
Today’s topic…semantics, and before I begin, let me tell you straight up that I’ve had my shoes for dinner plenty of times and I’d recommend you wear a helmet to protect yourself from the skeletons that might fall out if you yank my closet open.
All adults have skeletons. If you don’t…you haven’t lived…and if you say you don’t you are lying. Don’t climb up that Jacob’s Ladder…because if you say you’ve never lied…then you just did.
This isn’t about lying. Sometimes it’s necessary. I won’t throw that stone. This is about life and death…compassion and empathy…indifference and disregard. Pick one…because all of them apply when it comes to bullying.
WHY AREN’T WE PAYING ATTENTION? It’s almost every day now… some troubled child or young adult taking their life because they were bullied…one time is too many.
There can be no more cowardly a crime than contributing to the agony of someone who finds themselves at a crossroads and chooses dying as less painful than living. If you’ve bullied someone to death then you have murdered their soul.
In the neighborhood where I grew up, there were the haves and the have-nots. We were the have-nots. When I was in junior high, there was a group of “haves”…these cool girls that all hung out together. Their ringleader lived around the corner from me. In the summer, when they got bored, they’d show up at my house. We had the best snacks. I didn’t care when or why they came over…I was just glad that they did.
A new girl moved into our neighborhood and she started walking to school with us. When the cool girls found out that she was Jewish, they didn’t want her walking with us anymore…worse, they wanted me to stop walking with her too.
I wouldn’t…I couldn’t…and I didn’t stop walking with her. More than that…I knew that I shouldn’t.
At the time, I didn’t know what it meant to be Jewish. It didn’t matter. While I wasn’t one of the “haves”, I now know that I was a child of great privilege. I was raised in a family who knew better than to behave like we were better than anyone else. That is called class. It has to be lived in order to be taught.
It never got any easier for my Jewish friend. They bullied her in the worst way possible…they behaved like she had a communicable disease and they ignored her. I have no doubt that it comes back to haunt her even now.
I didn’t go unpunished. The cool girls retaliated and told me that the only reason they hung out with me was because I was “good for a laugh”. I was a pretty smart kid. I knew they meant it as an insult. It hurt my feelings, but it didn’t kill my spirit.
I am a funny girl. Funny is the second word I always use to describe myself. Smart is the first. Being told I was “good for a laugh” turned out to be the best thing anyone has ever said to me. From then on, I’ve looked for humor everywhere and I’ve found it. Laughter is my music. And I am made of rubber.
You know that old childhood rhyme…”I’m rubber…you’re glue…whatever you say bounces off of me and sticks to you.” Some of us are rubber…we can just let stuff bounce off of us. Some of us are glue…we can’t let go of things no matter how hard we try to shake them. Sometimes we’re a little of both.
But there are some people who can’t let things bounce off of them…they have a fragile heart. Bullying consumes them…eats them alive and destroys their soul. They have no strength to fight because the very thing they are being bullied for is what they struggle with…they are different.
If you accept that these people are glue then you can understand how bullying can drive someone to take their own life. And if you stand by and watch it happen without doing anything about it, then you are just as guilty as the bullies themselves.
Of course, not everyone who is bullied takes such drastic measures. But you don’t have to kill yourself to feel dead inside…and the scars never go away. They are branded there forever. And sadly bullying seems to be an inherited trait…a bully produces a bully produces a bully…like Russian stacking dolls.
My son was bullied. It started in elementary school. I will never for the life of me figure out why. He is the kindest kid I have known. He was a big kid even then, and we told him that the next time these kids bothered him he should knock their teeth out. His father and I are rubber. We bounce back. His struggle was heartbreaking but it was his struggle and he let us know it.
My eight year old son put us in our place. He looked me straight in the eye and said, “Mom, if I knock his teeth out I’ll get suspended. That will go in my school record and I won’t ever be able to be President of the United States.”
And herein lies my rub the wrong way…
Ads against bullying have popped up everywhere…all over the internet and t.v. and in magazines…bullying is an aggressive behavior that causes an imbalance of power through coercion and intimidation and we’ve got sports figures, celebrities and even politicians showing their support against it and pledging to make it stop.
Huh? The politicians, the same folks who are using podiums like a shield, slinging mud at each other…calling each other names…digging up ancient history and using it like a scarlet letter to brand each other incompetent…this is our front line AGAINST bullying?
And I’m not just talking the GOP here either…there’s plenty of blame to go around and they all can share the guilt.
Washington would have us believe that all we can produce anymore are lemons…not to worry though…they’ll save the day and our national beverage will be lemonade.
Imbalance of power…we need to put a TIME OUT chair in the Senate, Congress and the White House.
Our Commander in Chief and his crew are campaigning around on the Goodship Lollypop while their opponents are surrounding the ship with destroyers and submarines.
In the meantime we’re all out here treading water, hoping to be rescued.
Don’t grab onto either side’s life preserver folks…because the rope is trailing in the water…they don’t care to reel any of us in as long as THEY CAN STAY IN THE BOAT. Coercion isn’t a life raft.
Win at all costs. We all saw how that worked out for Penn State.
Name calling is bullying. Mud slinging is bullying. Using scare tactics and intimidating people is bullying. And if you go looking for dirt to use against someone, be careful how far down you dig, because you might not be able to climb out of the hole. That’s intimidation and bullying at it’s sneakiest. Of course, if you have nothing to hide then WHY HIDE IT?
As for some of the sports figures and the celebrities…too many of them have had to sell their souls on the used fame lot. I could go there…but why bother. Theirs is a make-believe world.
There are those who’d like us to believe that being an American has become a cross to bare. That is their prerogative.
But this is a wonderful country built on the belief that all human beings are created equal. No, our streets are not paved in gold, but we have the privilege and pricelessness of freedom and in that we are covered in gilt.
As for the rest of the guilt…we are ALL responsible for it. One nation…under God…whoever or whatever that is for you…
“For better or for worse…in sickness and in health” that should be in the Constitution.
As for for the cool girls I went to junior high with…I got the last laugh. When we got to high school…puberty and a little Maybelline…and I was the popular girl. Snap.
Don’t be bullied into believing things that you know are not true or good for you. Stand up for someone who can’t stand up for themselves.
Be responsible. Pay attention. And wear clean underwear…because you never know when you’ll be caught with your pants down.
I’m climbing down from my pyramid perch now…I leave you with these words…it is engraved on a plaque inside the Statue of Liberty…
The New Colossus
Not like the brazen giant of Greek fame,
With conquering limbs astride from land to land;
Here at our sea-washed, sunset gates shall stand
A mighty woman with a torch, whose flame
Is the imprisoned lightning, and her name
Mother of Exiles. From her beacon-hand
Glows world-wide welcome; her mild eyes command
The air-bridged harbor that twin cities frame.
“Keep, ancient lands, your storied pomp!” cries she
With silent lips. “Give me your tired, your poor,
Your huddled masses yearning to breathe free,
The wretched refuse of your teeming shore.
Send these, the homeless, tempest-tost to me,
I lift my lamp beside the golden door!”
Day Three Hundred and Forty Five…we are all in this together.