Bullying Will Never Stop
By Markham Hislop On October 20, 2012 @ 11:24 pm In Viewpoints | 1 Comment
My best friend in high school was a bully. He picked on smaller kids, tormenting them and making their lives miserable. I didn’t like it, but he was a friend and for a while I turned a blind eye.
You want to pick on someone, pick on me.
One day we were playing floor hockey during gym period. A younger class had joined us for some reason and one of the kids on my team was a talented hockey player. My friend taunted him, slashed his hands, and shoved him when scrumming for the puck. Enough was enough.
A few minutes later my friend was heading toward me, stickhandling with his head down, and I body checked him as hard as I could, squarely in the chest. He fell straight back and lay there gasping with his wind knocked out. “You want to pick on someone, pick on me,” I said.
He never bothered the younger kids again, during that game or any other ones that I recall. He never talked to me about the incident and we remained friends.
I thought of that day 35 years ago when I heard about Amanda Todd’s suicide. Where were the 15-year old Vancouver teen’s defenders? Why was a grown man allowed to bully her online by threatening to spread nude photos of her on the Internet without someone stepping up? Why did no one come forward to be Amanda’s champion?
Amanda took her life only a few days ago, so it’s still too early to point fingers at who exactly failed her. The RCMP has begun an investigation and, I suspect, we’ll discover that many, many people failed her.
But I want to focus on one bullying incident she revealed in the tragic video she posted to Youtube because that incident illustrates the flaws inherent in our view of bullying.
A group of students, perhaps as many as 50, confronted Amanda outside her school, taunting her, belittling her, and ultimately hitting her and pushing her to the ground. Teachers arrived to rescue Amanda, but the damage was done. Her father took her home, where she tried to kill herself by drinking bleach.
Months later, she succeeded. When B.C. Premier Christy Clark heard about Amanda’s suicide she posted her own video message on YouTube, in which she said, “No one deserves to be bullied. No one earns it, no one asks for it, it isn’t a rite of passage. Bullying has to stop.”
I have a message for Clark: Bullying will never stop. We are foolish if we think it will stop. Trying to stop bullying is like trying to redefine human nature. We might make bullying uncool and socially unacceptable–maybe, if we’re lucky–but we will never stop humans from trying to dominate one another, to advance themselves in the pecking order at the expense of someone else.
But there is something we can do, something that at least one person in the crowd that bullied Amanda on that fateful day outside her school should have done.
Someone should have stood up and said, “No more.” Someone should have stood beside Amanda, faced the bullies square on and said, “You want to pick on someone, pick on me.”
Yes, that person would have risked violence, maybe even a serious assault.
But that is the essence of courage, is it not? To face danger, conquer our fears and do the right thing regardless of the consequences?
Focusing on Amanda’s bullies is a losing strategy. You can’t reason with a bully. You can’t change their behaviour with an education program. If you could, we would have wiped out bullying long ago.
But we can empower our youth to be courageous.
We can teach them to reach out to parents, teachers and those in authority when they witness bullying.
We can teach them to be strong when faced with bullying.
And, most importantly, we can teach them to defend their weaker friends, classmates, siblings when necessary. We can teach them to stare down bullies and say, “You want to pick on someone, pick on me.” Even the weak, if they stand together, can defend themselves.
Courage is an old-fashioned idea. One seldom hears it mentioned these days. When was the last time you used it in a sentence?
It’s an idea, however, that deserves to be resurrected. In the context of bullying, it is also an idea that has one great virtue–it applies to us all.
One of the cards Amanda held up in her video said, “I have nobody. I need someone.”
Remember Amanda’s words the next time you talk to your daughter or your son about bullying. Don’t just tell them bullying is wrong and no one should bully or have to be bullied. Ask them to be courageous. Encourage them to step up and be prepared to say to a bully ”You want to pick on someone, pick on me.”
The person they defend may be the next Amanda Todd.
Markham Hislop is Editor in Chief of Beacon News.
Article courtesy TroyMedia.com
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