A chance to speak

Even in death his words are heard.

The story is one of the sadder ones we’ve watched and read about lately. A young lad, at that cute stage of 11 had been ridiculed and harassed, based on his muscular dystrophy amongst other things. A cell phone given to him by his parents to keep in touch was stolen by his harasser and some other friends. Charges were eventually laid and the boy was called to court to testify.

The day after being subpoenaed to provide his eye witness account, the young soul committed suicide. A judge hearing the case allowed his interview with police into evidence, making it possible for his now silent voice to be heard. The outcome of course will be dealt with by the courts. The outcome of bullying in this case remains the greatest crime of all – a young lad felt so scared and so afflicted that he took his life and was lost by his family. It’s tragic.

There is much to be said on the topic of bullying. Those of us able-bodied and equipped to do so, should do more, much more.

Bullying has gone on forever it seems. Like most youth we gave and received. It’s perhaps a startling confession to make and a little hard to acknowledge times when a tongue was a little too course and play a little too rough. But that is something adults need to come to terms with if we are ever to guide children away from the natural inclination to join the in-crowd if it possibly hurts others.

What we see as quite different today than say our youth, is typically older kids used to make it their business to keep things fair. The bigger kids always stopped the taunting, and if a big kid stepped out of line, the younger ones quickly found strength in numbers. When “Billy” finally got a bloody nose after picking on someone the teacher figured he finally got his payday.

Today, older kids are hard pressed to step up or get involved because schools have become somewhat of a sterilized environment. Any acting up has a consequence, arguably giving bullies a pass too often. Never believe for a moment that words are any less harmful than rough-housing. We would argue that words and names can be as cruel, if not more-so.

Perhaps the largest detractor from being a nuisance in the playground was the fear of parents or other adults clueing into what was happening. If the principal phoned home or administered the strap one could be quite sure that what transpired at home made the principal’s efforts look tame.

We’re adding a bit of levity to the past, but there definitely were consequences. It used to be that other adults were quite prepared to step in too. Today, we’re all watching our shadows to be sure someone isn’t offended and maybe minding our own business a little too conveniently. It has let bullies run roughshod over others.

 The actions of bullies are not confined to schoolyards. Workplaces, public spaces, service clubs and even churches can be haunts for bullies. We tend to think of a bully as some towering hulk, but there are plenty of head-game bullies capable of spoiling the day.

Similar to the school ground, the bully has as many rights if not more than the victim – which is wrong. It’s up to each of us to stop bullying in its tracks. We all should take the chance to speak when we can.