Saturday, April 14, 2012

The Bully-Side

One of my favorite authors is Stephen King.  Laugh and tease all you want, but I think he tells a story better than any writer I've come across.  Despite writing the most extreme, unimaginably weird circumstances, he can do it in a way that almost makes it seem realistic.

Fellow King fans know that there are certain themes that repeat in his novels, one of which is the passive acceptance of violence by the community, most prominently featured in the tome "IT".  As scary as a child-killer clown may be, the haunting passivity of the small town of Derry ends up being the lasting impression of the book.

Unfortunately, Howard County news boils down to one story this weekend: the suicide of 15-year-old Grace McComas, our attempts to honor her...and find a way to "fix this."  Grace was a victim of cyber-bullying.  Grace, who heart-breakingly wrote in her journal that "her hope for the new year was to 'find happiness and forgive those who had hurt her.'"

I would strongly encourage all of you to read "Goofy" by local author Rafael Alvarez.  Sometimes I feel that bullying is enabled by the "otherness" that we allow ourselves when we talk about bullies.  Mr. Alvarez owns his bully-side and expresses the most true punishment for engaging in such emotional violence -- lasting regret.

There will be bullies with lasting regret at Glenelg High School, more deep and punitive than we can imagine.  But the bullies that our schools, institutions, and celebrities address will be "others."  Some nameless, faceless villain that should be washed out.  A trial that has been conducted without conviction since we were born.

We all have our bully-side.  Even your kids.  You may be sitting in a room with a bully right now.  They could be eating cereal, watching TV, or reading a book.  The most dangerous fiction is that bullies are innately evil "things" wearing evil clothes with evil hair-cuts.  That's wrong.  Bullies buy Mother's Day gifts, volunteer at soup kitchens, and smile on their way to school.  We love our bullies and ignore their bully-side.  The choice is to allow them their lasting regret later, or somehow communicate it to them now.

Read Grace's story to your kids.  Think about your bully-side.  What would you say to yourself ten, twenty, thirty years ago? 

"You don't need to tell me if you're being mean to other kids at school and I don't want to know.  I do want you to know that if you are, you are killing someone else's child, and it will live with you for the rest of your life."