I watched Bully last night. If you haven’t seen it, see it.
Be prepared,it’s heart wrenching. It’s a documentary that follows several junior high school students who are being bullied. The situations are tragic, but the real travesty is the responses of the adults in charge. “Boys will be boys”, ” school buses are notoriously dangerous places”. I actually grew to feel sorry for the school administrators because they clearly did not have a clue what to do. So they did very little, or nothing at all. There were a couple of Mississippi police men that I’d like to encourage towards retirement. Nice to reaffirm that not too much had changed since 1960 there.
I firmly believe we create and support the culture we live in. It’s not something outside us, it is us. So, if boys will be boys, we define what that means. We support and allow the consequences of that. And I realize it’s a complicated problem, which is also why I know the response can’t be a simple…boys will be boys.
Every person has a part to play in bullying. The bully, the observers and the person being bullied are all involved. We can mostly agree that being naked in church is wrong, or that drunk driving is dangerous, or putting your finger in a toaster will hurt. With these truths in mind we behave in certain ways. We wear clothes, we designate a driver, we scream when we see someone putting their finger near a toaster. We wouldn’t say, ” well, toasters will be toasters.” And then watch the person get fried. We would do something to stop the situation, because we know its wrong.
I mentioned the poor, ignorant school administrators, who I wanted to grab by the shoulders and say, “wake up!” But really, it seemed they were like carpenters who showed up to build a house with a ball of yarn and two postage stamps. They did not have the right tools. Forcing a person who is being bullied to shake the hands of the person who is bullying him is not going to fix this problem.
Imagine you’re at work, sitting in your cubicle, sipping your morning coffee when your co-worker starts throwing waded up paper at you. You respond by politely asking her to stop. She says no and stands up over you, “what are you gonna do p$&&y?” And then takes your coffee. This happens for several weeks,in various ways. You talk to your supervisor, because now you’re really mad. Transfer that a-hole, fire her. Instead your supervisor says, why not shake hands with her, I bet you guys could become friends. What!?
Watching Bully makes me want to do more. I work with students an hour a week after school to try to change some of these behaviors. But I get a real sense of how much more there is to do. Teachers are exhausted and frustrated. Clearly lots of them are trying to make yarn into walls. And after all, kids are only in school in the daytime. The culture supports bullying right now. Pack mentality, the weak and different will be left behind. Don’t be the weak, don’t be thought of as the weak, don’t sit at the lunch table with the weak.
I once read a story of an anthropologist who went to an African village. While there she placed a large basket of fruit underneath a tree. She then gathered the children of the village together and told them that whoever got to the basket first got the fruit. She then lined them up for the race. Before the first person dashed off, the children all joined hands and ran together, arriving at the fruit basket at the same time. They shared the fruit equally. When the anthropologist asked why they did this they said…when one of us is happy we are all happy. Why would we leave someone behind? That’s what it means for children to be children to them.
So what can we do? Let me hear your voice. Let’s be the change we want to see in the world.