During an intense basketball practice three years ago, one of my son Milo’s teammates tripped another teammate with intent to injure. He followed that up by firing a basketball at Milo’s face and throwing a punch, which was blocked.
Milo, 16, who had tried to make peace with the enigmatic kid on numerous occasions, defended himself by punching out his assailant. “If I didn’t fight back, he was going to try to hurt me,” Milo explained. “He’s a bully, and I did what I had to do to prevent him from attacking me and bullying everybody else.”
It’s never easy dealing with those who attempt to cause harm, intimidate or coerce. Bullying has been around since the Paleolithic era. Milo’s only fight reminds me of the many scraps I had with bullies while growing up.
When friends were bullied in my neighborhood, I had no choice but to stick up for my pals. But that was back when guns and knives were not part of the equation. It was hand-to-hand contact.
It’s a scary world today with weapons and cyberbullying, which is why PACER’s National Bullying Center’s message should be heeded. Stop bullying is their battle cry. PACER has established October as National Bullying Prevention Month, and Unity Day is slated for Wednesday.
It’s a simple call to action and to wear the color orange to send the message that bullying is never acceptable behavior. “Choose Kindness, Acceptance and Inclusion” are PACER T-shirts and yard signs families can purchase by visiting the PACER website represent.com/store/pacer. It’s a great cause since no child wants to be an outcast. My children have had limited experience with bullies.
Milo protected a former classmate for years who was an outsider. The child’s father had a plethora of issues and was sent to prison. His anxious son became a target, but Milo never let anyone touch the kid until his family moved away after the sixth grade.
I despised bullies as a kid, but, as an adult, I feel sorry for them. The common denominator I’ve discovered with most bullies is that they’re coming from a toxic environment and more than likely being bullied at home.
A troubled classmate I went to school with many moons ago was in the bully category and had detention almost every day from first grade through his senior year of high school. I’m not exaggerating.
By the time I was in the fifth grade, it dawned on me that any kid who acted out and was sentenced to daily Catholic school detention dubbed JUG for Justice Under God is avoiding whatever boogie man who is waiting for him at home.
Most of the baddest of bullies were on their best behavior during my 12-year Catholic school experience. Priests and especially lay teachers reveled in disciplining those that stepped out of line with vicious beatdowns and cruel mind games.
Most of the bullying I witnessed was on unpatrolled streets. What was best was when a group collectively came down on a bully. That’s what happened with Milo’s peer group with the aforementioned basketball-throwing child. “We just let him know that we were not going to take his behavior anymore,” Milo said. “There’s no good that comes from bullying.”
For anyone who believes otherwise, check out the excellent 2012 documentary “Bully.” The filmmakers follow five American students who face constant bullying. Tyler Long and Ty Smalley score much of the focus. Both committed suicide due to bullying. It’s a heavy film, but it conveys an impactful message.
2011’s “The King of Pigs” is an intense animated flick from director Yeon Sang-ho’s experience at school in South Korea. It’s fascinating watching a child on the other side of the world in a completely different culture deal with constant abuse and hazing. It doesn’t just happen in America. The film is violent, but it’s an artistic masterpiece.
We live in a divisive country, but maybe we can find common ground if children can join together. The first step is to end bullying. It takes more effort to be mean than nice. Hopefully the next generation will understand. To quote a noteworthy entertainer from a bygone generation: “Give peace a chance” – in the classroom, in the schoolyard and in your neighborhood. We’re all in this together.
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