Bullying then and now
Most of us have dealt with bullying at some point in our lives. Usually, it was growing up when older or bigger kids felt they had an advantage over smaller or younger students. Generally, it ended one of several possible ways.
1. Those doing the bullying were either caught by an adult and were punished well enough to stop.
2. They simply grew out of that phase of their lives.
3. The target of bullying simply figured out where not to be at the time that gave the bully an opportunity.
4. The individual that is being bullied simply stood up either by himself or with help from others and refused to be bullied.
Most everyone has been the recipient at one time or another.
In middle school, one of our sons came home from school one day and told us that he intended to deal with someone who had been bullying a friend. The plan was to have a fight the next time it occurred. I explained that the school policy was to kick both sides out of school and that, right or wrong, he would be punished. If he felt that that was the only way to end the bullying, knowing the punishment, do what he felt he needed to do. When the bullies realized that there were those who would defend the target, they decided to no longer bother that individual. Crisis diverted.
In the past, bullying played out that way and people learned how to best deal with it. However, with the advent of social media, whether it be Facebook, Twitter, Instagram or whatever, bullying has become much more complex. In earlier times, most bullying was limited to the few that had the nerve to target others. Now, using social media, one can make themselves appear to be part of a larger group that may be only a couple of people. One person can post one thing that spreads like wildfire; leaving the victim feeling isolated and believing they are alone or friendless. This is most effective with young people that have not developed confidence in themselves and their self-worth. It has driven some to become withdrawn and hating school or being in public places. Tragically, in some cases, it has led to suicide or violent fatal attacks on others. While it is most critical in school when young people do not have the confidence to deal with bullying, there are those out there who will lose confidence in themselves and submit to the antics of others. The only way that this can be counteracted is if one develops confidence in themselves and their core beliefs.
Parents, teachers, and other adults must do a better job of being aware when they see changes in young people. Usually we are blind to what is happening in social media, leaving us to watch for signs that something is happening and intervening.
There should be no surprise that, with the decline of church attendance and the rise in social media, we have seen horrid attacks in our schools. This is what we should focus on rather than passing more laws.
BULLYING IN POLITICS
While bullying is usually associated with the school aged, it is seen to a lesser degree in business and social settings. However, adults have usually learned to avoid those situations where bullying is likely to occur. One of the greatest places that it is seen, or at least attempted, is in the world of politics. It is not unusual to have someone send an email saying “If you don’t vote this way or that way, I will vote against you in the next election.” I have no doubt that every legislator gets these same messages on a regular basis. This problem has become much worse with Facebook, attacking if one doesn’t vote as they wish. I cannot judge how this affects others. For myself, I know there are usually as many people just as passionate on the other side. Therefore, I simply ignore that type of remark and make decisions based on my values and my best judgement. Whether I am on the same side or on the other side of the issue, I hope that my counterparts do the same.
Frank Ruff represents Lunenburg in the state Senate. His email address is Sen. Ruff@verizon.net.