Sunday, May 3, 2009

"Do Unto Others As You Want Them to Do Unto You"

From childhood and continuing through life beyond that, we have the tendency to follow the crowd - often without really thinking about it.  It feels so good to be included that we don't think about what happens to those people who aren't.  (Maybe other than fear, this was one of the factors behind the Salem Witch Trials?)  

It's so easy for one person to be victimized and for others to go along with it.  We enjoy feeling like we're a part of something and we don't want to be next on the list.

When I write this, I'm not not pointing fingers at anyone.  Actually, I'm talking about myself.  I never started ostracizing or making fun of people.  Even when they were being ostracized, I didn't say or do anything.  I turned a blind eye and melted back into the crowd, allowing it to happen.  The worst part is, sometimes these people had been my friends.  Yet, when they started to be victimized, I turned away.  What kind of friend does that?

I can blame it on ignorance or a childish inability to see from another person's perspective.  Or maybe it was just cowardice, plain and simple.  I couldn't stand up for people who needed someone to stand up for them.  Either that, or I just didn't understand they needed this.  

When I think back to a nice guy from my class in fifth grade and how people treated him, it was like it was a game.  That's honestly how it felt.  I clearly remember the look on his face, how he would just smile with his mouth full of braces.  Thinking about it now makes me want to cry.  What was going on through his mind as this was going on?  How did he feel as this was happening?  How did he feel when I, his supposed friend, did nothing to stop him or to help him?

I've always known that my cousin is pretty quiet, not outspoken at all, but I've always adored him for the simple fact that he's my cousin and a really nice guy.  It has never mattered that he doesn't say much.  I found out - just today, actually - that he was teased in school and that that may have adversely affected his social development.

Then my mom's best friend in North Carolina, apparently her son doesn't want to go to school because he's being bullied.  His mom complained to the school and the school said they can't do anything about it.  What?  Excuse me?  First of all, the U.S. government teaches that children should tell an adult when they are being bullied, with teachers ranking high on the list.  Secondly, after this and that, you would think schools would take bullying more seriously.

Something else that disturbed me is that my mom's best friend said to her, "He needs to toughen up."  Bullshit.  Bullying is not something that most people can just get over.  Many of the psychological effects persist into adulthood.  This is not something that just goes away - it leaves a lasting emotional scar.

I can't take back what I did in the past, but I can change the future.  I will treat everyone with the respect they deserve, just for being fellow human beings.  I will stand up for what's right.  I'll teach my six-year-old and two-year-olds cousins about bullying, by showing them these fun webisodes.

Bullying is something that needs to stop.  As the U.S. government's anti-bullying website's motto says:  "Take a Stand, Lend a Hand."