Gentle Readers . . . and Maxwell,
"Bully for you" is defined on multiple sites as meaning the following:
1. Good for you; you've been especially courageous.
2. Well, aren't you just the big effin' deal (and I don't mean that in a nice way at all).
I've decided to call this weekly series BULLY FOR YOU because so many people are forced into bad situations by bullies and they try to be courageous, and because bullies so often take on the attitude of the second definition.
We'll talk about bullies every Monday until we're done with the topic. No end date specified. One week from today I'll review a memoir in which bullying plays a large part. It's Cleft Heart: Chasing Normal by Karl Schonborn. If you want to go ahead and order a copy, you can get it on Amazon at http://goo.gl/MQfZ4C or on Barnes&Noble at http://goo.gl/ZY84Sb.
Following the book review, we'll have guest posts on Mondays until we've said everything we want to say about bullies. I hope we'll explore times that we've been bullied, how we've handled bullies, how we wish we'd conducted ourselves with bullies, and in particular, the effects of bullying. What does bullying do to us, and what does it say about us as a society? The final guest post will be by Karl Schonborn himself. I've asked him to write "Dr. Schonborn's Prescription For Dealing With Bullies".
I've already received a few guest posts, and some other folks have promised to write posts (don't worry: I'll remind you about your promise).
I wonder if bullying is worse now than it was in my salad days?
I don't know. New opportunities for bullying present themselves. I was bullied on Facebook recently.
But bullies have always walked among us. In The Little House Books, Laura Ingalls Wilder writes about numerous bullies, and her stories––most of which are based on reality––occurred during the 1870s and 1880s. When I was in the fifth grade, a boy in kindergarten brought a knife to school and stabbed another kindergartner while they were on the playground for recess. We all saw the blood, but in 1970 or thereabouts, the story wasn't on the news. If I had gone home and told my parents about it, my mother would have said, Don't be ridiculous; that didn't happen.
I guess we talk about bullies more these days, and we should, especially in light of the young people who have committed suicide because of merciless bullying. I imagine some older folks have killed themselves because of bullies, too. It's not a problem that's limited to any particular age group.
Today, I'd like to tell you a story about The Hurricane. When she was born, she wasn't even drizzle yet. By the time she was in elementary school, drizzle began to form, but it formed because she was sad. She was not yet The Great and Powerful Hurricane that she is today, whirling and twirling and saving herself when she must.
Many of the children in her elementary school––and their parents––disdained The Hurricane because of her unusual intelligence. On a Brownie camp out, one of her tent mates told her, My mom says you just think you're smart. You're not really smart.
Kids said X and I did The Hurricane's homework for her. Did I also squeeze myself into a child's school desk to take the tests on which she received perfect scores? When she was in prep school, some kids called her The Curve Breaker.
It wasn't The Hurricane who told the other children she was intelligent. She didn't know she was different until she was in the second grade and the other kids started to talk about how smart she was. She asked me if what they said was true. I said, God has given you a gift, and you must use it wisely. Always do the best you can, but don't tell the other kids your test scores. Grades are a private thing, and you shouldn't brag.
When The Hurricane was in the third grade, the children didn't limit themselves to saying, Oh, wow, The Hurricane is smarter than everybody else. Instead, a girl started an I Hate The Hurricane Club.
When she was in the fifth grade, her teachers did not practice effective disciplinary techniques, and many of their students were out of control. The chaos was very hard on The Hurricane, though she remained focused on her studies. Verbal attacks on her intensified.
One day while her class was supposed to be standing in a line, a boy suddenly turned around and used a kick boxing move on The Hurricane. She told me about it after school. She said the other kids laughed. She had told her teacher. She had a bruise on her arm.
I called the school and spoke to her teacher. She told me she gave the boy two days of after-school detention. X called the principal, who was an ass hat, and said the disciplinary action wasn't sufficient. The principal declined to intervene.
I had been keeping a journal throughout the school year about verbal attacks on The Hurricane by students and teachers. After the physical attack, we made an appointment at the central office for the schools, where we spoke with the supervisor for elementary education. I gave her a copy of an 11-page letter in which I recounted the attacks. I also presented her with copies of letters I had sent to her teacher, all of which had gone unanswered.
The supervisor promised me that she would handle the matter. For the last few months of the school year, although gossip persisted, it lessened. More important, The Hurricane's teacher ceased her verbal attacks.
Sometimes I think about the incidents of that year, and I wonder if I did enough. I sympathized with The Hurricane, and I stood up for her against bad teachers and a worse principal.
But should I have called the police? When I finally had the chance to tell a friend of mine about the attack, my friend, who is and has been a teacher for many years, said, Doesn't the school have an officer to talk to that boy? Don't they even have a DARE officer? Detention is not enough for assault.
No, they didn't have any kind of officer. If I had called the police and showed them pictures of the bruise, if I had insisted that the boy be charged with assault, would it have helped? Would the kids have backed off, or would they have treated her even worse? I have no idea what happened to that boy. Would getting into serious trouble then have prevented him from getting involved in worse activities? His misbehavior in school was already a constant problem. What if someone had told this boy and his parents, This crap has to stop, and it has to stop now. Have you heard about juvenile detention?
The period of attacks against The Hurricane haunt me, but she seems to have put them behind her. She told me a few days ago that it's been many years since someone told her she's too smart for her own good. She's happy with her life, and she enjoys the many opportunities provided by her intelligence and education. Some "good" came out of her experiences: she's empathetic, and she's very tough.
But I'll always wonder if I did enough.
Infinities of love,