Read this post on bullying.
Read it now.
They [Coy dogs] don't actually bite the prey all that much. A nip at the heels, a few ambitious leaps to worry shoulders, haunches, beefy necks. They don't have to. Once the blood starts running, all they have to do is keep the prey moving, moving, moving, until exhaustion and fear do their magic. It doesn't take long. The point will come where the prey doesn't have the strength to fight anymore. The hooves that should kick away, flinty hooves that can crush a skull, if the strength is there, do not have the strength. It's over, the coy dogs have won, and the end of the game is as much surrender as capture -- even fighting to the last, the prey's been run too hard, too long, to win.
That is what bullying is. Pure and simple, what we're seeing is humanity taking on that coy dog aspect. No one person has to do that much -- what's a comment? what's a shove? what's possessions trashed, families threatened, rumors started, video shared? It is the aggregate effect that kills, the preponderance of hate, delivered daily, hourly, inescapably. Animalistic behavior, the basics of human decency abandoned for the thrill of the chase, the toxic exhilaration of pursuit -- and above all, the embrace of the group, the knowledge that you have a place in the pack. You don't have to do so much, really. Take a turn in point position, if you've the stomach for it, but that's not even truly necessary. All you have to do is hiss little comments. Or laugh. Or look away and do nothing.
Someone in the comments argued that bullies "move on" or "get bored" (said comment has been redacted and commenter has apologized and listened to differing view points -- a virtual miracle when it comes to the Internet). The trouble is, as others pointed out, an individual bully might move on and/or get bored, but other bullies are always there to take hir place. To use cbpotts
's analogy, once you've been marked/cut, there's no getting the scent of blood off you.
The few times I recall standing up to my tormentors, I was punished in some way. I was told I was rude, I was being unfair, or I was being emotional and there was no need to cry about whatever event set me off. The onus was on me to be nice, to be polite, and ever forgiving (that's what Jesus would do anyway). The one time the school administration did anything (when they pretty much had to or else I was going to file theft charges for money stolen from my wallet), the bullies' friends threatened me and acted like I was in the wrong for having my money stolen. One of those friends was the principal's own daughter.
Adults in my life, particularly my parents, told me they weren't adult issues and I should get over it. I was told, "It won't last forever," and it was hinted that maybe one day I'd look back on all this and laugh. Yes, nearly twelve years out of high school and I'm still waiting for the laughter.
The problem with telling children to wait it out or saying "it gets better" is that it never addresses what's happening right now
in that child's life. It gives the bullies a sort of silent permission to continue bullying and tormenting without punishment because, hey, you won't always be a kid forever and we'll all grow up to be adults. Never mind that to a child facing down how ever many years are left of school filled with torture, death seems preferable. Speaking from experience, if you talked to sixteen year-old me, I'd flat-out tell you that my life was hopeless. Truth is, I'm only still here now because one day I couldn't remember the combination to my father's gun safe. I was fifteen years old then, starting my sophomore year of high school. What's even scarier is that I had been contemplating suicide since I was thirteen.Thirteen.
Young teens grappling with suicidal thoughts at thirteen, sixteen, or even eighteen should not
be considered a normal part of childhood development. Yet, we almost treat it as such. We treat bullying as a given, that those unable to fight back, unable to keep from succombing to that desire to end it all are weak-willed and maybe deserved to die because they're cowards. And always, always
we tell kids to get over it, that it'll get better, but there's very little done to address the bullies and tormentors. They almost always get off scot-free.
Being called a lesbian in a crowded cafeteria during a high school debate meet with students from schools around the state in a very conservative area of the country was terrifying, especially when it wasn't unusual to hear threats against people who were "different" than the norm. I was so scared rumors that I might be gay would fly out around my small town thanks to the jerks from my school. My very homophobic father might have caught wind of it, and if he'd believed it, I'm not sure I can say he would be terribly accepting. (He went to his grave never knowing I'm bisexual, nor does my mother know my sexuality if only because I present as straight given I'm in a heterosexual relationship currently.)
That's the reality for kids facing down bullying. And you don't always get over it as soon as you're out of high school. I'm better than I was, but I'll always bear the scars. I'll never forget being told I was worthless, that I should kill myself, that no one would ever want me or love me. I won't ever forget it because it still shocks me when I hear my boyfriend tell me he loves me. Tell me he cares. When others tell me I mean something to them.
Life did get better, but it took a very long time for that to happen. It's only now, at nearly thirty years old, that I can say things are better, that I'm happy. But just because I eventually turned out okay doesn't mean it's acceptable for children to continue tormenting other children. I didn't escape unscathed and I was one of the luckier ones all things considered.
Bullying is not okay and there needs to be accountability. It's as simple as that.