Changing Lanes: Letís put an end to bullying together
In sixth grade, I witnessed bullying of a boy half my size by a kid twice my size. A couple of times a week, as I entered school in the morning, small-statured and mild-tempered Thomas would be in the clutches of a school bully named Chet. Most of the fun for Chet was threatening such a small person. If Thomas showed enough fear, then the bully would not actually punch or slap Thomas.
Some days, Thomas could persuade Chet through conversation or humor to stop being a jerk. If Chet wasnít in too bad of a mood, Thomas would get away with having to only fetch his hat from the sidewalk.
I was too self-conscious to do anything about Chetís bullying. I thought that if I stepped in, I would end up being the object of the bullying. The faculty, staff and the rest of the students walked past, turning a blind eye to Thomasís torture. If I told an adult about it, especially when they obviously could see Thomasís torment, the repercussions could be grave. Forcing any adult to do what he or she is supposed to do can be perilous.
At 12 or 13 years of age, the primary moralistic quality I had been taught by my parents was to ďdo unto others as you would have them do unto you.Ē It made sense to me back then; I never thought of it as karma or the ďethic of reciprocity.Ē I didnít even know it as the Golden Rule. I thought my dad made it up. It made sense to me then and still does today.
I would like to say that every action I ever made was guided by this rule, but alas, I can only hope my actions, on average, lean in that direction.
I kept my mouth shut about Thomas and still feel a twinge of guilt about it, decades later.
We teach our kids bullying on a national scale by examples seen in politics and sports. We arenít supposed to bully, but where should the line be drawn? Our national politics have gone beyond bullying to vicious partisan bickering.
In sports, bullying is most often part of the game. At the football scrimmage line, it is common practice to use intimidation of any kind, verbally or via body language, to gain a psychological advantage over opponents. I guess you could call it professional bullying. As much as that is part of the game, paying players to try their best to injure others is criminal and felonious.
Letís draw the line at graduation. High school should be the last bastion of teaching fair play. Teachers and coaches have a great deal of influence on students. They should teach fair, sportsmanlike conduct.
When faculty turned a blind eye to bullying in my school, the lesson to me was, ďDonít pay attention if it doesnít affect you personally.Ē
Even people with good intentions can be bullies. Sometimes, when I thought I was gently teasing someone, I realized later that I was bullying. It was mild, but it still wasnít right. I guess I had to put myself in the other personís place.
If you are a bully, you probably donít know it. You may think you are standing up for a friend who has helped you and others, but consider fair play. If you are in a leadership position, consider what you are teaching those you bully. If you are a teacher or coach and see kids bullying each other, put an end to it. If you are the bully, try to see that in yourself and make a change; be a better example.